Growth pattern of the siliceous skeletons of living Spumellaria (Radiolaria) from the Kuroshio Current, offshore southwestern Shikoku Island, Japan

Rie S. Hori, Takenobu Shinki, Akihiro Iwakiri, Atsushi Matsuoka, Noritoshi Suzuki, Kaoru Ogane, Akihiro Tuji

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Experimental culture studies of living radiolarians experience many difficulties because radiolarians are too sensitive to be maintained alive in artificial conditions. We here developed an improved experimental protocol in order to detect newly-formed parts of the polycystine radiolarian skeletons after they were labeled with fluorescent markers. Living samples were collected from surface seawater of the Kuroshio Current offshore from Kashiwajima Island, Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan. The taxonomic composition of the Kashiwajima radiolarian samples varied markedly across the seasons and sampling sites. Spumellaria were usually abundant in samples collected near Kashiwajima, and had high diversity in shell morphology. Here, we performed experimental studies on living spumellarian radiolarians to clarify their siliceous skeletogenesis. Our culture-based research on spumellarians provided the following results. (A) The pattern of silica deposition on the skeleton of Spongaster tetras tetras varies depending on the growth stage. Three ontogenetic stages were identified: (1) young, (2) progressively-growing and (3) fully-grown. Furthermore, novel varied types of skeletal growth modes were determined as follows: (i) rapid growth on the outermost shell with enlargement of shell size and (ii) internal deposition on skeletal components without change in shell size. From measurements of the growth rate of cultured radiolarians, it is assumed that S. tetras tetras cell has at least a month-long life cycle. (B) Spherical spumellarians have their own shell-forming strategy that permits additional silicogenesis while maintaining the taxonomically-specific shape of their shell; the meshwork of their shell surface consists of polygonal-shaped pore-frames formed by heterogeneous patterns of added silica. Our direct observation with fluorescence markers detected a skeletogenesis process of Haliommilla capillacea possessing a fragile spherical shell. We thus confirm the bridge-growth hypothesis for morphogenesis of the polygonal frame as proposed in previous studies. Spongosphaera streptacantha, having extremely long spines, exhibited a special growth pattern of spine elongation in a centrifugal direction, without a change in width. This was achieved by a particular temporal pattern of silicification characterized by an alternating pattern of patchy addition of new silica on the entire part of each blade from the base to the tip. Moreover, a thin layer of new silica was added by a flowing deposition along the edge of the spine. Based on these culture-based studies using living radiolarians, we conclude that Spumellaria control and maintain a particular shell shape by regulating where silicification takes place on the skeleton, particularly depending on the growth stage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100504
JournalRevue de Micropaleontologie
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul


  • Kuroshio Current
  • Living Radiolaria
  • Silicogenesis
  • Skeletal morphogenesis


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