Effects of ocean acidification on embryo development: Does encapsulation matter?

As the concentration of CO2 in surface seawaters increases (ocean acidification, or OA) the saturation of calcium carbonate decreases, preventing marine organisms from creating shells and other calcified structures. These effects of elevated CO2 on calcification have been previously shown in free-spawning larvae, but are not as well-studied in larvae that spend their early life stages in encapsulation. The focus of our study was to determine what effects CO2 would have on a diversity of encapsulated embryos, and whether different types of encapsulating structures provided different levels of protection against OA. We found only a moderate larval response to low (600 ppm), medium (1050 ppm), and high (1500 ppm) CO2 concentrations across all species taken as a whole, but did observe that several species/ populations exhibited a decline in shell length with no corresponding decline in inorganic content. This suggests that while calcification was not significantly decreased by our OA conditions, perhaps the morphology of certain shells changed, becoming wider and shorter. Our hatch times, which increased with elevated CO2, confirmed that increased CO2 placed embryos under stress during development.

Carr G. M. & Podolsky R. D., 2016. Effects of ocean acidification on embryo development: Does encapsulation matter? Research paper, Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, 24 p. Paper.

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