Ocean acidification challenges copepod reproductive plasticity

Ocean acidification is challenging phenotypic plasticity of individuals and populations. Calanoid copepods (zooplankton) are shown to be fairly plastic against altered pH conditions, and laboratory studies indicate that transgenerational effects are one mechanism behind this plasticity. We studied phenotypic plasticity of the copepod Acartia bifilosa in the course of a pelagic, large-volume mesocosm study that was conducted to investigate ecosystem and biogeochemical responses to ocean acidification. We measured copepod egg production rate, egg hatching success, adult female size and adult female antioxidant capacity (ORAC) as a function of acidification (fCO2 ~ 365–1231 μatm), and as a function of quantity and quality of their diet. We used an egg transplant experiment to reveal if transgenerational effects can alleviate the possible negative effects of ocean acidification on offspring development. We found significant negative effects of ocean acidification on adult female copepod size and egg hatching success. In addition, we found a threshold of fCO2 concentration (~ 1000 μatm), above which adaptive maternal effects cannot alleviate the negative effects of acidification on egg hatching and nauplii development. We did not find support for the hypothesis that insufficient food quantity (total particulate carbon ~ 55 μm) or quality (C : N) weakens the transgenerational effects. However, females with high ORAC produced eggs with high hatching success. Overall, these results indicate that A. bifilosa could be affected by projected near future CO2 levels.

Vehmaa A., Almén A.-K., Brutemark A., Paul A., Riebesell U., Furuhagen S. & Engström-Öst J., 2015. Ocean acidification challenges copepod reproductive plasticity. Biogeosciences Discussions 12:18541-18570. Article.

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