As a consequence of anthropogenic CO2-driven ocean acidification (OA), coastal waters are becoming increasingly challenging for calcifiers due to reductions in saturation states of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) minerals. The response of calcification rate is one of the most frequently investigated symptoms of OA. However, OA may also result in poor quality calcareous products through impaired calcification processes despite there being no observed change in calcification rate. The mineralogy and ultrastructure of the calcareous products under OA conditions may be altered, resulting in changes to the mechanical properties of calcified structures. Here, the warm water biofouling tubeworm, Hydroides elegans, was reared from larva to early juvenile stage at the aragonite saturation state (ΩA) for the current pCO2 level (ambient) and those predicted for the years 2050, 2100 and 2300. Composition, ultrastructure and mechanical strength of the calcareous tubes produced by those early juvenile tubeworms were examined using X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and nanoindentation. Juvenile tubes were composed primarily of the highly soluble CaCO3 mineral form, aragonite. Tubes produced in seawater with aragonite saturation states near or below one had significantly higher proportions of the crystalline precursor, amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) and the calcite/aragonite ratio dramatically increased. These alterations in tube mineralogy resulted in a holistic deterioration of the tube hardness and elasticity. Thus, in conditions where ΩA is near or below one, the aragonite-producing juvenile tubeworms may no longer be able to maintain the integrity of their calcification products, and may result in reduced survivorship due to the weakened tube protection.
Chan, V. B. S., Li C., Lane A. C., Wang Y., Lu X., Shih K., Zhang T. & Thiyagarajan V., 2012. CO2-driven ocean acidification alters and weakens integrity of the calcareous tubes produced by the serpulid tubeworm, Hydroides elegans. PLoS ONE 7(8): e42718. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042718. Article.