Functional consequences of prey acclimation to ocean acidification for the prey and its predator

Ocean acidification is the suite of chemical changes to the carbonate system of seawater as a consequence of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Despite a growing body of evidences demonstrating the negative effects of ocean acidification on marine species, the consequences at the ecosystem level are still unclear. One factor limiting our ability to upscale from species to ecosystem is the poor mechanistic understanding of the functional consequences of the observed effects on organisms. This is particularly true in the context of species interactions. The aim of this work was to investigate the functional consequence of the exposure of a prey (the mussel Brachidontes pharaonis) to ocean acidification for both the prey and its predator (the crab Eriphia verrucosa). Mussels exposed to pH 7.5 for >4 weeks showed significant decreases in condition index and in mechanical properties (65% decrease in maximum breaking load) as compared with mussels acclimated to pH 8.0. This translated into negative consequences for the mussel in presence of the predator crab. The crab feeding efficiency increased through a significant 27% decrease in prey handling time when offered mussels acclimated to the lowest pH. The predator was also negatively impacted by the acclimation of the prey, probably as a consequence of a decreased food quality. When fed with prey acclimated under decreased pH for 3 months, crab assimilation efficiency significantly decreased by 30% and its growth rate was 5 times slower as compared with crab fed with mussels acclimated under high pH. Our results highlight the important to consider physiological endpoints in the context of species interactions.

Dupont S. T., Mercurio M., Giacoletti A., Rinaldi A., Mirto S., D’Acquisto L., Sabatino M. A. & Sara G., 2015. Functional consequences of prey acclimation to ocean acidification for the prey and its predator. PeerJ PrePrints 3:e1792. Article.

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