In a laboratory experiment we investigated micro- and nanoscale changes in fossil diatom valves and in the texture of diatomaceous sediments that result from ice sheet overburden and subglacial shearing. Our experiment included compression and shearing of Antarctic diatom-rich sediments in a ring shear device and comparison of experimental samples with natural glacial sediments from the Antarctic continental shelf. The purpose of the experiment is to establish objective criteria for analyzing subglacial processes and interpreting the origin of glacial-geologic features on the Antarctic continental shelf. We find distinct changes resulting from different glacial settings, with respect to whole diatom frustules, diatom micromorphology, and microtextural properties of sedimentary units. By providing constraints on subglacial shearing, these observations of genetically controlled micro- and nanoscale diatom structures and architecture are contributing to the understanding of large-scale glacial processes, aiding the development of models of modern ice sheet processes, and guiding interpretation of past ice sheet configurations. Copyright ?? 2005 American Scientific Publishers. All rights reserved.
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Frustules to fragments, diatoms to dust: How degradation of microfossil shape and microstructures can teach us how ice sheets work