Reduced heterotrophy in the stony coral Galaxea fascicularis after life-long exposure to elevated carbon dioxide

Ocean acidification imposes many physiological, energetic, structural and ecological challenges to stony corals. While some corals may increase autotrophy under ocean acidification, another potential mechanism to alleviate some of the adverse effects on their physiology is to increase heterotrophy. We compared the feeding rates of Galaxea fascicularis colonies that have lived their entire lives under ocean acidification conditions at natural carbon dioxide (CO2) seeps with colonies living under present-day CO2 conditions. When provided with the same quantity and composition of zooplankton as food, corals acclimatized to high CO2 showed 2.8 to 4.8 times depressed rates of zooplankton feeding. Results were consistent over four experiments, from two expeditions and both in field and chamber measurements. Unless replenished by other sources, reduced zooplankton uptake in G. fascicularis acclimatized to ocean acidification is likely to entail a shortage of vital nutrients, potentially jeopardizing their health and survival in future oceans.

Smith J. N., Strahl J., Noonan S. H. C., Schmidt G. M., Richter C. & Fabricius K. E., 2016. Reduced heterotrophy in the stony coral Galaxea fascicularis after life-long exposure to elevated carbon dioxide. Scientific Reports 6:27019. Article.


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