Long-term effects of altered pH and temperature on the feeding energetics of the Antarctic sea urchin, Sterechinus neumayeri

This study investigated the effects of long-term incubation to near-future combined warming (+2 °C) and ocean acidification (−0.3 and −0.5 pH units) stressors, relative to current conditions (−0.3 °C and pH 8.0), on the energetics of food processing in the Antarctic sea urchin, Sterechinus neumayeri. After an extended incubation of 40 months, energy absorbed, energy lost through respiration and lost as waste were monitored through two feeding cycles. Growth parameters (mass of somatic and gonad tissues and the CHN content of gonad) were also measured. There were no significant effects of combined ocean acidification (OA) and temperature stressors on the growth of somatic or reproductive tissue. Despite more food being consumed in the low temperature control, once food processing and maintenance costs were subtracted, there were no significant effects of treatment on the scope for growth. The biggest significant differences were between amounts of food consumed during the two feeding cycles. More food was consumed by the low temperature (0 °C) control animals, indicating a potential effect of the changed conditions on digestive efficiency. Also, in November, more food was consumed, with a higher absorption efficiency, which resulted in a higher scope for growth in November than September and may reflect increased energetic needs associated with a switch to summer physiology. The effect of endogenous seasonal cycles and environmental variability on organism capacity is discussed.

Morley S., Suckling C. C., Clark M. S., Cross E. L. & Peck L. S., in press. Long-term effects of altered pH and temperature on the feeding energetics of the Antarctic sea urchin, Sterechinus neumayeri. Biodiversity. Article (subscription required).

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