A gender bias in the calcification response to ocean acidification

The effects of nutrients and pCO2 on zooxanthellate and azooxanthellate colonies of the temperate scleractinian coral Astrangia poculata (Ellis and Solander, 1786) were investigated at two different temperatures (16 °C and 24 °C). Corals exposed to elevated pCO2 tended to have lower relative calcification rates, as estimated from changes in buoyant weights. No nutrient effect was observed. At 16 °C, gamete release was not observed, and no gender differences in calcification rate were observed. However, corals grown at 24 °C spawned repeatedly and male and female corals exhibited two different growth rate patterns. Female corals grown at 24 °C and exposed to CO2 had calcification rates 39 % lower than females grown at ambient CO2, while males showed only a 5 % decline in calcification under elevated CO2. At 16 °C, female and male corals showed similar reductions in calcification rates in response to elevated CO2 (15 % and 19 % respectively). At 24 °C, corals spawned repeatedly, while no spawning was observed at 16 °C. The increased sensitivity of females to elevated pCO2 may reflect a greater investment of energy in reproduction (egg production) relative to males (sperm production). These results suggest that both gender and spawning are important factors in determining the sensitivity of corals to ocean acidification and their inclusion in future research may be critical to predicting how the population structures of marine calcifiers will change in response to ocean acidification.

Holcomb M., Cohen A. L., & McCorkle D. C., 2011. A gender bias in the calcification response to ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions 8(4): 8485-8513. Article.

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