Concentrations of amino acids and their corresponding d l enantiomeric ratios have been measured in shells of the bivalve mollusk Saxidomus from eleven localities, ranging in age from modern to probably more than 500,000 yr, along the Pacific coast of North America. Natural logarithms of amino acid concentrations correlate well with d l ratios, and the relationship provides a possible guide to the selection of fossils for use in amino acid dating. The relative order of the extents of racemization of amino acids at any given time appears to change with increasing sample age. Application of the amino acid dating method to shells from Whidbey Island, Washington, yields an age of about 80,000 yr, in contrast to the previously determined radiocarbon age of 36,000 yr which was measured on some shell carbonate and considered a minimum age. The amino acid age is compatible with the geologic record in the area. ?? 1980.
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Geochemistry of amino acids in shells of the clam Saxidomus