Intraspecific variation in physiological performance of a benthic elasmobranch challenged by ocean acidification and warming

Elucidating the combined effects of increasing temperature and ocean acidification on performance of fishes is central to our understanding of how species will respond to global climate change. Measuring the metabolic costs associated with intense and short activities such as those required to escape predators, is key to quantify changes in performance and estimate potential effects of environmental stressors on survival. In this study, juvenile little skate Leucoraja erinacea from two neighboring locations (Gulf of Maine, or northern location, and Georges Bank, or southern location) were developmentally acclimatized and reared at current and projected temperatures (15, 18, or 20°C) and acidification conditions (pH of 8.1 or 7.7), and their escape performance was tested by employing a chasing protocol. Results from this study suggest variation in growth between skates from the two locations, while the optimum for escape performance was at a lower temperature in individuals from the northern latitudes, which could be related to adaptation to the local thermal environment. Aerobic performance and scope declined in skates from the northern latitudes at simulated ocean warming and acidification conditions. Overall, the southern skates showed lower sensitivity to these climatic stressors. This study demonstrates that even mobile organisms from neighboring locations can exhibit substantial differences in energetic costs of exercise and that skates from the northern part of the geographic range may be more sensitive to the directional increase in temperature and acidification expected by the end of the century.

Di Santo V., in press. Intraspecific variation in physiological performance of a benthic elasmobranch challenged by ocean acidification and warming. Journal of Experimental Biology. Article (subscription required).


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