Effects of increased pCO2 and geographic origin on purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) calcite elemental composition

Ocean acidification will likely have negative impacts on invertebrates producing skeletons composed of calcium carbonate. Skeletal solubility is partly controlled by the incorporation of “foreign” ions (such as Mg and Sr) into the crystal lattice of these skeletal structures, a process that is sensitive to a variety of biological and environmental factors. Here we explore the effects of life stage, oceanographic region of origin, and changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in seawater (pCO2) on trace elemental composition in the purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus). We show that, similar to other urchin taxa, adult purple sea urchins have the ability to precipitate skeleton composed of a range of biominerals spanning low to high magnesium calcites. Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca ratios were substantially lower in adult spines compared to adult tests. On the other hand, trace elemental composition was invariant among adults collected from four oceanographically distinct regions along the US west coast (Oregon, Northern California, Central California, and Southern California). Skeletons of newly settled juvenile urchins that originated from adults from the four regions exhibited intermediate Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca between adult spine and test endmembers, indicating that skeleton precipitated during early life stages is more soluble than adult spines and less soluble than adult tests. Mean skeletal Mg/Ca or Sr/Ca of juvenile skeleton did not vary with source region when larvae were reared under present-day, global-average seawater carbonate conditions (400 ppm; pH = 8.02 ± 0.03 1 SD;Ωcalcite = 3.3 ± 0.2 1 SD). However, when reared under elevated CO2 (900 ppm; pH = 7.72 ± 0.03;Ωcalcite = 1.8 ± 0.1), skeletal Sr/Ca in juveniles exhibited increased variance across the four regions. Although larvae from the northern populations (Oregon, Northern California, Central California) did not exhibit differences in Mg or Sr incorporation under elevated CO2 (Sr/Ca = 2.09 ± 0.06 mmol mol−1; Mg/Ca = 66.9 ± 4.1 mmol mol−1), juveniles of Southern California origin partitioned ∼ 8% more Sr into their skeletons when exposed to higher CO2 (Sr/Ca = 2.26 ± 0.05 vs. 2.10 ±0.03 mmol mol−1 1 SD). Together these results suggest that the diversity of carbonate minerologies present across different skeletal structures and life stages in purple sea urchins does not translate into an equivalent plasticity of response associated with geographic variation or temporal shifts in seawater properties. Rather, composition of S. purpuratus skeleton precipitated during both early and adult life history stages appears relatively robust to spatial gradients and predicted changes in seawater carbonate chemistry for 2100. An exception to this trend may arise during early life stages, where certain populations of purple sea urchins may alter skeletal mineral precipitation rates and composition beyond a given CO2threshold. The degree to which this latter geochemical plasticity might affect mineral stability and solubility in a future, altered ocean requires additional study.

LaVigne M., Hill T. M., Sanford E., Gaylord B., Russell A. D., Lenz E. A., Hosfelt J. D. & Young M. K., 2012. Effects of increased pCO2 and geographic origin on purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) calcite elemental composition. Biogeosciences Discussions 9: 17939-17973. Article.


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