Near future ocean acidification increases growth rate of the lecithotrophic larvae and juveniles of the sea star Crossaster papposus

Ocean acidification (OA) is believed to be a major threat for near-future marine ecosystems, and that the most sensitive organisms will be calcifying organisms and the free-living larval stages produced by most benthic marine species. In this respect, echinoderms are one of the taxa most at risk. Earlier research on the impact of near-future OA on echinoderm larval stages showed negative effects, such as a decreased growth rate, increased mortality, and developmental abnormalities. However, all the long-term studies were performed on planktotrophic larvae while alternative life-history strategies, such as nonfeeding lecithotrophy, were largely ignored. Here, we show that lecithotrophic echinoderm larvae and juveniles are positively impacted by ocean acidification. When cultured at low pH, larvae and juveniles of the sea star Crossaster papposus grow faster with no visible affects on survival or skeletogenesis. This suggests that in future oceans, lecithotrophic species may be better adapted to deal with the threat of OA compared with planktotrophic ones with potentially important consequences at the ecosystem level. For example, an increase in populations of the top predator C. papposus will likely have huge consequences for community structure. Our results also highlight the importance of taking varying life-history strategies into account when assessing the impacts of climate change, an approach that also provides insight into understanding the evolution of life-history strategies.

Dupont, S., Lundve, B., & Thorndyke, M., in press. Near future ocean acidification increases growth rate of the lecithotrophic larvae and juveniles of the sea star Crossaster papposus. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution doi:10.1002/jez.b.21342 Article (subscription required).


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