The dark side of soft tissues: unexpected inorganic carbonate in the invasive slipper limpet Crepidula fornicata and its implications for stable isotope interpretations

Type Article
Date 2019-01
Language English
Author(s) Androuin Thibault1, Dubois StanislasORCID1, Decottignies Priscilla2, Pelleter EwanORCID3, Carlier AntoineORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, DYNECO, LEBCO, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
2 : Univ Nantes, Lab Mer Mol Sante, EA2160, 2 Rue Houssiniere, F-44322 Nantes 3, France.
3 : IFREMER, REM, UGM, LGM, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
Source Rapid Communications In Mass Spectrometry (0951-4198) (Wiley), 2019-01 , Vol. 33 , N. 1 , P. 107-115
DOI 10.1002/rcm.8322
WOS© Times Cited 4


Stable isotopic analysis is extensively used in trophic ecology. Inorganic carbonates, usually originating from shell fragments, are routinely removed from samples using an acid treatment because they affect δ13C values. However, acid treatment can also change δ15N values. For some taxa such as molluscs, the general assumption is that acid pre‐treatment is not necessary since their shell is easily dissected from soft tissues and represents the only source of inorganic carbonates. However, other sources of non‐dietary carbon (e.g., intracellular inorganic carbon) enriched in 13C thus get overlooked.


Soft tissues (foot) of the invasive gastropod Crepidula fornicata of different size classes were analysed for their δ13C and δ15N values with and without acid pre‐treatment using isotope ratio mass spectrometry. In toto microscopic investigations coupled with acid treatment, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy were used to highlight the presence of inorganic carbonate. A correction model was derived and applied to existing stable isotope data for C. fornicata. We used both seasonal variations in δ13C signatures and mixing model outputs to assess the error in δ13C values.


Acid pre‐treatment had a significant effect on the stable isotope compositions of C. fornicata foot tissue, especially on δ13C values: isotopic differences increased with size, up to 3‰ for large females. No effect was detected for small (below ~20 mm) and motile males. In toto microscopic analysis revealed the presence of small spherules of inorganic carbonate, hence explaining the differences in δ13C values. Mixing model outputs and seasonal variation of δ13C values showed that untreated samples can lead to large misinterpretations about diet proportions and degree of trophic niche overlap, respectively.


Spherules of inorganic carbonate in C. fornicata soft tissues are likely to be linked with motility of this species and their mucus production. We recommend assessing the presence of inorganic carbonate in soft tissue of sessile gastropods.

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Androuin Thibault, Dubois Stanislas, Decottignies Priscilla, Pelleter Ewan, Carlier Antoine (2019). The dark side of soft tissues: unexpected inorganic carbonate in the invasive slipper limpet Crepidula fornicata and its implications for stable isotope interpretations. Rapid Communications In Mass Spectrometry, 33(1), 107-115. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :