Exposure to Elevated Temperature and pCO2 Reduces Respiration Rate and Energy Status in the Periwinkle Littorina littorea

In the future, marine organisms will face the challenge of coping with multiple environmental changes associated with increased levels of atmospheric Pco2, such as ocean warming and acidification. To predict how organisms may or may not meet these challenges, an in-depth understanding of the physiological and biochemical mechanisms underpinning organismal responses to climate change is needed. Here, we investigate the effects of elevated Pco2 and temperature on the whole-organism and cellular physiology of the periwinkle Littorina littorea. Metabolic rates (measured as respiration rates), adenylate energy nucleotide concentrations and indexes, and end-product metabolite concentrations were measured. Compared with values for control conditions, snails decreased their respiration rate by 31% in response to elevated Pco2 and by 15% in response to a combination of increased Pco2 and temperature. Decreased respiration rates were associated with metabolic reduction and an increase in end-product metabolites in acidified treatments, indicating an increased reliance on anaerobic metabolism. There was also an interactive effect of elevated Pco2 and temperature on total adenylate nucleotides, which was apparently compensated for by the maintenance of adenylate energy charge via AMP deaminase activity. Our findings suggest that marine intertidal organisms are likely to exhibit complex physiological responses to future environmental drivers, with likely negative effects on growth, population dynamics, and, ultimately, ecosystem processes.

Melatunan S, Calosi P, Rundle SD, Moody AJ & Widdicombe S, 2011. Exposure to elevated temperature and pCO2 reduces respiration rate and energy status in the periwinkle Littorina littorea. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 84(6): 583-594. Article (subscription required).


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