Will ocean acidification affect the early ontogeny of a tropical oviparous elasmobranch (Hemiscyllium ocellatum)?

Atmospheric CO2 is increasing due to anthropogenic causes. Approximately 30% of this CO2 is being absorbed by the oceans and is causing ocean acidification (OA). The effects of OA on calcifying organisms are starting to be understood, but less is known about the effects on non-calcifying organisms, notably elasmobranchs. One of the few elasmobranch species that has been studied with respect to OA is the epaulette shark, Hemiscyllium ocellatum. Mature epaulette sharks can physiologically and behaviourally tolerate prolonged exposure to elevated CO2, and this is thought to be because they are routinely exposed to diurnal decreases in O2 and probably concomitant increases in CO2 in their coral reef habitats. It follows that H. ocellatum embryos, while developing in ovo on the reefs, would have to be equally if not more tolerant than adults because they would not be able to escape such conditions. Epaulette shark eggs were exposed to either present-day control conditions (420 µatm) or elevated CO2 (945 µatm) and observed every 3 days from 10 days post-fertilization until 30 days post-hatching. Growth (in square centimetres per day), yolk usage (as a percentage), tail oscillations (per minute), gill movements (per minute) and survival were not significantly different in embryos reared in control conditions when compared with those reared in elevated CO2 conditions. Overall, these findings emphasize the importance of investigating early life-history stages, as the consequences are expected to transfer not only to the success of an individual but also to populations and their distribution patterns.

Johnson M. S., Kraver D. W., Renshaw G. M. C. & Rummer J. L., 2016. Will ocean acidification affect the early ontogeny of a tropical oviparous elasmobranch (Hemiscyllium ocellatum)? Conservation Physiology 4(1):cow003. Article.


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