Sclerites of the soft coral Ovabunda macrospiculata (Xeniidae) are predominantly the metastable CaCO3 polymorph vaterite

Jeana L. Drake, Yehuda Benayahu, Iryna Polishchuk, Boaz Pokroy, Iddo Pinkas, Tali Mass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soft corals (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Octocorallia, Alcyonacea) produce internal sclerites of calcium carbonate previously shown to be composed of calcite, the most stable calcium carbonate polymorph. Here we apply multiple imaging and physical chemistry analyses to extracted and in-vivo sclerites of the abundant Red Sea soft coral, Ovabunda macrospiculata, to detail their mineralogy. We show that this species’ sclerites are comprised predominantly of the less stable calcium carbonate polymorph vaterite (> 95%), with much smaller components of aragonite and calcite. Use of this mineral, which is typically considered to be metastable, by these soft corals has implications for how it is formed as well as how it will persist during the anticipated anthropogenic climate change in the coming decades. This first documentation of vaterite dominating the mineral composition of O. macrospiculata sclerites is likely just the beginning of establishing its presence in other soft corals. Statement of significance: Vaterite is typically considered to be a metastable polymorph of calcium carbonate. While calcium carbonate structures formed within the tissues of octocorals (phylum Cnidaria), have previously been reported to be composed of the more stable polymorphs aragonite and calcite, we observed that vaterite dominates the mineralogy of sclerites of Ovabunda macrospiculata from the Red Sea. Based on electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction analysis, vaterite appears to be the dominant polymorph in sclerites both in the tissue and after extraction and preservation. Although this is the first documentation of vaterite in soft coral sclerites, it likely will be found in sclerites of other related taxa as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-670
Number of pages8
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


  • Animals
  • Anthozoa
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Minerals


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