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Radiocarbon Variability in Crassostrea virginica Shells from the Chesapeake Bay, USA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2016

Torben C Rick*
Program in Human Ecology and Archacobiology, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013–7012, USA
Gregory A Henkes
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA
Corresponding author. Email:


Fifteen accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates obtained on small subsections of archaeological and historical Crassostrea virginica (eastern oyster) shells provide a means to test for intrashell variability in 14C content in late Holocene Chesapeake Bay mollusks. Although salinity and temperature vary considerably throughout the year, the Chesapeake Bay generally lacks the strong coastal upwelling present in the eastern Pacific where intrashell 14C variability is significant. Intrashell variability in Chesapeake Bay C. virginica is between ∼60–100 14C yr, considerably smaller than the 120–530 14C yr ranges noted for shells from strong upwelling zones. As a precaution, we follow Culleton et al. (2006) and argue that large subsamples of shells across multiple growth increments are ideal for AMS 14C dating of mollusks to offset potential issues of intrashell 14C variability.

Copyright © 2014 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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