Skeletal alterations and polymorphism in a Mediterranean bryozoan at natural CO2 vents

Colonies of the cheilostome bryozoan Schizoporella errata were grown at a site near Ischia Island (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy) where volcanogenic CO2 emissions lower seawater pH to 7.76, simulating levels of ocean acidification predicted for the end of the present century. Compared with colonies from a control site (mean pH = 8.09), putative defensive polymorphs (avicularia) were significantly fewer, and retarded growth of zooidal basal and lateral walls was evident at the low pH site. The lower proportion of avicularia suggests a switch in resource allocation away from defence to favouring rapid growth. In addition, corrosion of the skeleton was observed in both new and old zooids at the low pH site, and feeding zooids were slightly smaller but had larger orifices for the protrusion of feeding lophophores. These findings corroborate previous studies demonstrating potential dissolution of carbonate skeletons in low pH seawater, while providing new insight into the possible ability of colonial species to respond to ocean acidification by adjusting resource allocation between zooids of different types.

Lombardi C., Gambi M. C., Vasapollo C., Taylor P. & Cocito S., 2011. Skeletal alterations and polymorphism in a Mediterranean bryozoan at natural CO2 vents. Zoomorphology 130(2):135-145. Article (subscription required).

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