Trans-generational responses to low pH depend on parental gender in a calcifying tubeworm

The uptake of anthropogenic CO2 emissions by oceans has started decreasing pH and carbonate ion concentrations of seawater, a process called ocean acidification (OA). Occurring over centuries and many generations, evolutionary adaptation and epigenetic transfer will change species responses to OA over time. Trans-generational responses, via genetic selection or trans-generational phenotypic plasticity, differ depending on species and exposure time as well as differences between individuals such as gender. Males and females differ in reproductive investment and egg producing females may have less energy available for OA stress responses. By crossing eggs and sperm from the calcareous tubeworm Hydroides elegans (Haswell, 1883) raised in ambient (8.1) and low (7.8) pH environments, we observed that paternal and maternal low pH experience had opposite and additive effects on offspring. For example, when compared to offspring with both parents from ambient pH, growth rates of offspring of fathers or mothers raised in low pH were higher or lower respectively, but there was no difference when both parents were from low pH. Gender differences may result in different selection pressures for each gender. This may result in overestimates of species tolerance and missed opportunities of potentially insightful comparisons between individuals of the same species.

Lane A., Campanati C., Dupont S. & Thiyagarajan V., 2015. Trans-generational responses to low pH depend on parental gender in a calcifying tubeworm. Scientific Reports (Nature) 5: 10847. Article.

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