Effects of CO2 driven ocean acidification on ontogenetic stages of the cutllefish Sepia officinalis

Ocean acidification due to anthropogenic emissions of CO2 is the new kid on the block of climate change research and has received considerable attention as changes in seawater acidity and carbonate chemistry can severely affect marine organisms from the species to the ecosystem level. The degree of sensitivity within a species can vary greatly along ontogeny, often leading to highest sensitivities in early life stages. Recent studies using the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, demonstrated that it’s oviparous developmental mode can constitute an additional challenge for early life stages as increases in environmental pCO2 add on top to the already high CO2 concentration inside the egg. The micro-environment inside the egg is characterized by low pH, hypoxia, hypercapnia and high ammonia concentrations as a result of the animal’s metabolism and the limited diffusion permeability of the egg capsule. This oviparous developmental mode in combination with lower pH regulatory capacities are probably the major reasons why S. officinalis embryos respond more sensitively towards seawater acidification compared to adults. Although stronger hypercapnia levels (> 0.3 kPa; < pH 7.5) could demonstrate potentially negative effects on the development, metabolism and calcification, acidification levels as predicted for the coming century will probably not severely affect S. officinalis. This relative tolerance may be a consequence of a lifestyle in benthic coastal habitats, pre-adapting S. officinalis to natural fluctuations in environmental pCO2.

Hu M. Y., 2016. Effects of CO2 driven ocean acidification on ontogenetic stages of the cutllefish Sepia officinalis. Life and Environment: An International Journal of General Ecology 66(1):57-63. Article (subscription required).

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