Myriad Mapping of nanoscale minerals reveals calcium carbonate hemihydrate in forming nacre and coral biominerals

Connor A. Schmidt, Eric Tambutté, Alexander A. Venn, Zhaoyong Zou, Cristina Castillo Alvarez, Laurent S. Devriendt, Hans A. Bechtel, Cayla A. Stifler, Samantha Anglemyer, Carolyn P. Breit, Connor L. Foust, Andrii Hopanchuk, Connor N. Klaus, Isaac J. Kohler, Isabelle M. LeCloux, Jaiden Mezera, Madeline R. Patton, Annie Purisch, Virginia Quach, Jaden S. Sengkhammee, Tarak Sristy, Shreya Vattem, Evan J. Walch, Marie Albéric, Yael Politi, Peter Fratzl, Sylvie Tambutté and Pupa U.P.A. Gilbert

Nature Communications 15, 1812 (2024)
Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is abundant on Earth, is a major component of marine biominerals and thus of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and it plays a major role in the global carbon cycle by storing atmospheric CO2 into solid biominerals. Six crystalline polymorphs of CaCO3 are known—3 anhydrous: calcite, aragonite, vaterite, and 3 hydrated: ikaite (CaCO3·6H2O), monohydrocalcite (CaCO3·1H2O, MHC), and calcium carbonate hemihydrate (CaCO3·½H2O, CCHH). CCHH was recently discovered and characterized, but exclusively as a synthetic material, not as a naturally occurring mineral. Here, analyzing 200 million spectra with Myriad Mapping (MM) of nanoscale mineral phases, we find CCHH and MHC, along with amorphous precursors, on freshly deposited coral skeleton and nacre surfaces, but not on sea urchin spines. Thus, biomineralization pathways are more complex and diverse than previously understood, opening new questions on isotopes and climate. Crystalline precursors are more accessible than amorphous ones to other spectroscopies and diffraction, in natural and bio-inspired materials.