Impact of ocean acidification on metabolism and energetics during early life stages of the intertidal porcelain crab Petrolisthes cinctipes

Absorption of elevated atmospheric CO2 is causing surface ocean pH to decline, a process known as ocean acidification (OA). To date, few studies have assessed the physiological impacts of OA on early life-history stages of intertidal organisms, which transition from habitats with fluctuating pH (intertidal zone) to relatively stable (pelagic zone) pH environments. We used the intertidal crab Petrolisthes cinctipes to determine whether metabolic responses to year 2300 predictions for OA vary among early developmental stages and to examine whether the effects were more pronounced in larval stages developing in the open ocean. Oxygen consumption rate, total protein, dry mass, total lipids and C/N were determined in late-stage embryos, zoea I larvae and newly settled juveniles reared in ambient pH (7.93±0.06) or low pH (7.58±0.06). After short-term exposure to low pH, embryos displayed 11% and 6% lower metabolism and dry mass, respectively, which may have an associated bioenergetic cost of delayed development to hatching. However, metabolic responses appeared to vary among broods, suggesting significant parental effects among the offspring of six females, possibly a consequence of maternal state during egg deposition and genetic differences among broods. Larval and juvenile metabolism were not affected by acute exposure to elevated CO2. Larvae contained 7% less nitrogen and C/N was 6% higher in individuals reared at pH 7.58 for 6 days, representing a possible switch from lipid to protein metabolism under low pH; the metabolic switch appears to fully cover the energetic cost of responding to elevated CO2. Juvenile dry mass was unaffected after 33 days exposure to low pH seawater. Increased tolerance to low pH in zoea I larvae and juvenile stages may be a consequence of enhanced acid–base regulatory mechanisms, allowing greater compensation of extracellular pH changes and thus preventing decreases in metabolism after exposure to elevated PCO2. The observed variation in responses of P. cinctipes to decreased pH in the present study suggests the potential for this species to adapt to future declines in near-shore pH.

Carter H. A., Ceballos-Osuna L., Miller N. A. & Stillman J. H., 2013. Impact of ocean acidification on metabolism and energetics during early life stages of the intertidal porcelain crab Petrolisthes cinctipes. Journal of Experimental Biology 216: 1412-1422. Article (subscription required).


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