Digestion in sea urchin larvae impaired under ocean acidification

Larval stages are considered as the weakest link when a species is exposed to challenging environmental changes1, 2. Reduced rates of growth and development in larval stages of calcifying invertebrates in response to ocean acidification might be caused by energetic limitations3. So far no information exists on how ocean acidification affects digestive processes in marine larval stages. Here we reveal alkaline (~pH 9.5) conditions in the stomach of sea urchin larvae. Larvae exposed to decreased seawater pH suffer from a drop in gastric pH, which directly translates into decreased digestive efficiencies and triggers compensatory feeding. These results suggest that larval digestion represents a critical process in the context of ocean acidification, which has been overlooked so far.

Stumpp M., Hu M., Casties I., Saborowski R., Bleich M., Melzner F. & Dupont S., 2013. Digestion in sea urchin larvae impaired under ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change. Article (subscription required).

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