Ocean acidification challenges copepod phenotypic plasticity (update)

Ocean acidification is challenging phenotypic plasticity of individuals and populations. Calanoid copepods (zooplankton) are shown to be fairly plastic against altered pH conditions, and laboratory studies indicate that transgenerational effects are one mechanism behind this plasticity. We studied phenotypic plasticity of the copepod Acartia sp. in the course of a pelagic, large-volume mesocosm study that was conducted to investigate ecosystem and biogeochemical responses to ocean acidification. We measured copepod egg production rate, egg-hatching success, adult female size and adult female antioxidant capacity (ORAC) as a function of acidification (fCO2  ∼  365–1231 µatm) and as a function of quantity and quality of their diet. We used an egg transplant experiment to reveal whether transgenerational effects can alleviate the possible negative effects of ocean acidification on offspring development. We found significant negative effects of ocean acidification on adult female size. In addition, we found signs of a possible threshold at high fCO2, above which adaptive maternal effects cannot alleviate the negative effects of acidification on egg-hatching and nauplii development. We did not find support for the hypothesis that insufficient food quantity (total particulate carbon < 55 µm) or quality (C : N) weakens the transgenerational effects. However, females with high-ORAC-produced eggs with high hatching success. Overall, these results indicate that Acartia sp. could be affected by projected near-future CO2 levels.

Vehmaa A., Almén A.-K., Brutemark A., Paul A., Riebesell U., Furuhagen S. & Engström-Öst J., 2016. Ocean acidification challenges copepod phenotypic plasticity. Biogeosciences 13:6171-6182. Article.


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