Details of crystal growth in the calcitostracum of Crassostrea virginica have been studied with the purpose of analyzing the formation of the overlapping rows of oriented tabular crystals characteristic of this part of the shell. Crystal elongation, orientation, and dendritic growth suggest the presence of strong concentration gradients in a thin layer of solution in which crystallization occurs. Formation of the overlapping rows can be explained by three processes observed in the shell: a two-dimensional tree-like dendritic growth in which one set of crystal branchings creeps over an adjacent set of branchings; three-dimensional dendritic growth; and growth by dislocation of crystal surfaces. Multilayers of crystals may thus be formed at one time. This is favored by infrequent secretion of a covering organic matrix which would inhibit crystal growth. The transitional zone covering the outer part of the calcitostracum and the inner part of the prismatic region is generally characterized by aggregates of small crystals with definite orientation. Growth in this zone appears to take place in a relatively homogeneous state of solution without strong concentration gradients. Thin membranes and bands of organic matrix were commonly observed in the transitional zone bordering the prismatic region. The membrane showed a very fine oriented network pattern.

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