Survival, growth, and morphology of blue king crabs: effect of ocean acidification decreases with exposure time

Ocean acidification is an altering marine carbonate chemistry resulting in potential effects to marine life. In this study, we determine the effects of decreased pH on the morphology, growth, and survival of juvenile blue king crab, Paralithodes platypus. Crabs were reared at three pH levels: ambient (control, pH ∼8.1), pH 7.8, and pH 7.5, for 1 year and monitored for morphological changes, survival, and growth. Exposure to seawater at pH 7.8 had no effect on morphology or mortality and had only a minor effect on growth compared with the ambient treatment. However, exposure to seawater at pH 7.5 substantially increased mortality and decreased growth compared with the ambient treatment. The best fit model of mortality rate at pH 7.5 showed an initially high mortality rate, which dropped to become comparable to the mortality rate in the other treatments. This suggests phenotypic variability or plasticity in juveniles and may indicate acclimation by blue king crab to ocean acidification. As such, blue king crab may have scope for evolutionary adaptation in response to gradually changing pH levels. However, effects on other life-history stages, sub-lethal effects, carryover or transgenerational effects, and interactions with other stressors, such as increased temperature, still need to be investigated.

Long W. C., Van Sant S. B., Swiney K. M. & Foy R. J., in press. Survival, growth, and morphology of blue king crabs: effect of ocean acidification decreases with exposure time. ICES Journal of Marine Science. Article (subscription required).

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