Sea urchins thrive in acidic oceans

Many ocean species suffer from the increasing acidity of the oceans caused by increased absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, some sea urchins may have an evolutionary trick that allows them to evolve around the difficulties of ocean acidification.

Some purple sea urchins’ DNA contain genes that help young urchins survive in acidic water, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). Wild populations of the urchins may contain enough genetic diversity to allow them to rapidly evolve resistance to acidic oceans.

The research, conducted at Stanford University, exposed sea urchin larvae to a range of water acidities, including levels thought to match the oceans of 2100. Even in highly acidic waters, the urchins thrived.

“They didn’t suffer because among them were some individuals with the right genes to be able to grow well in those harsh conditions,” said lead author Melissa Pespeni, a former Stanford postdoctoral fellow, in a press release.

Acidic oceans don’t seem to sour urchins reproductive success, which may be a good thing for those who fancy the taste of their reproductive organs, called roe, or uni in Japanese sushi restaurants.

Tim Wall, Discovery, 11 April 2013. Article.

1 Response to “Sea urchins thrive in acidic oceans”


  1. 1 Lina Hansson 12 April 2013 at 20:53

    Note that the terminology used in this article is misleading. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7″. Despite the process of ocean acidification (the acidity of seawater has increased 26% since preindustrial time), the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, the words “acid” or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents or in purposeful perturbation experiments.


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