Abstract

The concentration of about 2 ppm of uranium in the aragonitic skeletons of modern scleractinian corals which we studied is a constant value, regardless of occurrence, anatomy, or taxonomy. The presence of cement of aragonite or high-magnesian calcite usually raises the concentration of bulk samples to about 3 ppm. Modern corals may contain up to 50% of cementing minerals. Organisms, such as corals and coralline algae, while secreting their skeleton, discriminate against the uptake of uranium, whereas the uptake of uranium by mineral cements is less restrained. Aragonite cement contains about 3.6 ppm and high-magnesian calcite cement 2.6 ppm uranium. During leaching by freshwater, the aragonite of the skeletons of corals dissolves out. This creates hollow molds which fill with drusy low-magnesian calcite. In emergent reefs from the shores of the Red Sea which display the effects of progressive diagenesis this calcite is enriched in uranium (3.9 ppm) beyond that found in marine cements. Second-generation calcite which fills original voids in the corals from the emergent reefs contains a lower level of uranium concentration (1.3 ppm). The level of concentration of uranium in low-magnesian calcite of diagenetically altered corals is a function of the availability of uranium in meteoric waters. In aragonite as well as in high- and low-magnesian calcite uranium replaces calcium or occupies lattice vacancies in the crystal lattice.

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