Temperature dependent effects of elevated CO2 on shell composition and mechanical properties of hydroides elegans: insights from a multiple stressor experiment

The majority of marine benthic invertebrates protect themselves from predators by producing calcareous tubes or shells that have remarkable mechanical strength. An elevation of CO2 or a decrease in pH in the environment can reduce intracellular pH at the site of calcification and thus interfere with animal’s ability to accrete CaCO3. In nature, decreased pH in combination with stressors associated with climate change may result in the animal producing severely damaged and mechanically weak tubes. This study investigated how the interaction of environmental drivers affects production of calcareous tubes by the serpulid tubeworm, Hydroides elegans. In a factorial manipulative experiment, we analyzed the effects of pH (8.1 and 7.8), salinity (34 and 27‰), and temperature (23°C and 29°C) on the biomineral composition, ultrastructure and mechanical properties of the tubes. At an elevated temperature of 29°C, the tube calcite/aragonite ratio and Mg/Ca ratio were both increased, the Sr/Ca ratio was decreased, and the amorphous CaCO3 content was reduced. Notably, at elevated temperature with decreased pH and reduced salinity, the constructed tubes had a more compact ultrastructure with enhanced hardness and elasticity compared to decreased pH at ambient temperature. Thus, elevated temperature rescued the decreased pH-induced tube impairments. This indicates that tubeworms are likely to thrive in early subtropical summer climate. In the context of climate change, tubeworms could be resilient to the projected near-future decreased pH or salinity as long as surface seawater temperature rise at least by 4°C.

Chan V. B. S., Thiyagarajan V., Lu X. W., Zhang T. & Shih K., in press. Temperature dependent effects of elevated CO2 on shell composition and mechanical properties of hydroides elegans: insights from a multiple stressor experiment. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78945. Article


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