Ocean acidification disrupts induced defences in the intertidal gastropod Littorina littorea

Bibby et al.

Carbon dioxide-induced ocean acidification is predicted to have major implications for marine life, but the research focus to date has been on direct effects. We demonstrate that acidified seawater can have indirect biological effects by disrupting the capability of organisms to express induced defences, hence, increasing their vulnerability to predation. The intertidal gastropod Littorina littorea produced thicker shells in the presence of predation (crab) cues but this response was disrupted at low seawater pH. This response was accompanied by a marked depression in metabolic rate (hypometabolism) under the joint stress of high predation risk and reduced pH. However, snails in this treatment apparently compensated for a lack of morphological defence, by increasing their avoidance behaviour, which, in turn, could affect their interactions with other organisms. Together, these findings suggest that biological effects from ocean acidification may be complex and extend beyond simple direct effects.


Bibby R., Cleall-Harding P., Rundle S., Widdicombe S., Spicer J., 2007. Ocean acidification disrupts induced defences in the intertidal gastropod Littorina littorea. Biology Letters, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0457. Article.

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