Response to ocean acidification in larvae of a large tropical marine fish, Rachycentron canadum

Currently, ocean acidification is occurring at a faster rate than at any time in the last 300 million years, posing an ecological challenge to marine organisms globally. There is a critical need to understand the effects of acidification on the vulnerable larval stages of marine fishes, as there is potential for large ecological and economic impacts on fish populations and the human economies that rely on them. We expand upon the narrow taxonomic scope found in the literature today, which overlooks many life history characteristics of harvested species, by reporting on the larvae of Rachycentron canadum (cobia), a large, highly mobile, pelagic-spawning, widely distributed species with a life history and fishery value contrasting other species studied to date. We raised larval cobia through the first three weeks of ontogeny under conditions of predicted future ocean acidification to determine effects on somatic growth, development, otolith formation, swimming ability, and swimming activity. Cobia exhibited resistance to treatment effects on growth, development, swimming ability, and swimming activity at 800 and 2100 μatm pCO2. However, these scenarios resulted in a significant increase in otolith size (up to 25 % larger area) at the lowest pCO2 levels reported to date, as well as the first report of significantly wider daily otolith growth increments. When raised under more extreme scenarios of 3500 μatm and 5400 μatm pCO2, cobia exhibited significantly reduced size-at-age (up to 25 % smaller) and a 2-3 d developmental delay. The robust nature of cobia may be due to the naturally variable environmental conditions this species currently encounters throughout ontogeny in coastal environments, which may lead to an increased acclimatization ability even during long-term exposure to stressors.

Bignami S., Sponaugle S. & Cowen R. K., in press. Response to ocean acidification in larvae of a large tropical marine fish, Rachycentron canadum. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

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