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An effective method to extract and purify radiolaria from tropical marine sediments

Zhang, Qiang; Swann, George E.A.

An effective method to extract and purify radiolaria from tropical marine sediments Thumbnail


Qiang Zhang


Radiolaria are the primary contributors to biogenic opal in the tropical ocean, and their isotope compositions are potentially useful tool for reconstructing the silicon cycle in mid-depth waters. To date little attention has been paid to their isotopic study, partly because of the difficulties in purifying radiolarian tests from marine sediments. In this study twelve surface sediment samples from the South China Sea and the western Indian Ocean were used in a density separation experiment, with the aim of enabling better separation of radiolarian tests from detrital grains and other siliceous organisms. The results show that sponge spicules, radiolarian tests and diatom frustules from tropical ocean sediments preferentially settle in heavy liquid solutions with different specific gravities, and are constrained to range in the densities from 1.95 to 2.1 g/cm3, 1.85 to 2.0 g/cm3 and 1.7 to 1.95 g/cm3, respectively. These density ranges for radiolarians and diatom frustules in the low-latitude ocean are much lower than that of amorphous silica, probably resulting from the decreased silicification of radiolarians and diatoms due to the limited silica availability in the highly-stratified tropical ocean. According to the components and density ranges of siliceous microfossils observed in this study, an optimized method with detailed procedures is proposed to extract and purify radiolarians from late Quaternary sediments in the tropical ocean that have not undergone substantial dissolution and diagenetic change. Using a combination of wet-chemical treatment, wet sieving, differential settling, and density separations, this method can yield clean radiolarian test in sufficient quantities from tropical ocean sediments for isotope/geochemical analysis.


Zhang, Q., & Swann, G. E. (2023). An effective method to extract and purify radiolaria from tropical marine sediments. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10, Article 1150518.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 23, 2023
Online Publication Date Jun 12, 2023
Publication Date Jun 12, 2023
Deposit Date Jan 31, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 16, 2023
Journal Frontiers in Marine Science
Electronic ISSN 2296-7745
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 1150518
Keywords tropical ocean, isotope, radiolarian, marine sediments, density separation, ocean engineering, water science and technology, aquatic science, global and planetary change, oceanography
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Additional Information Copyright © 2023 Zhang and Swann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


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