Mineralogical plasticity acts as a compensatory mechanism to the impacts of ocean acidification

Calcifying organisms are considered particularly susceptible to the future impacts of ocean acidification (OA), but recent evidence suggests that they may be able to maintain calcification and overall fitness. The underlying mechanism remains unclear but may be attributed to mineralogical plasticity, which modifies the energetic cost of calcification. To test the hypothesis that mineralogical plasticity enables the maintenance of shell growth and functionality under OA conditions, we assessed the biological performance of a gastropod (respiration rate, feeding rate, somatic growth, and shell growth of Austrocochlea constricta) and analyzed its shell mechanical and geochemical properties (shell hardness, elastic modulus, amorphous calcium carbonate, calcite to aragonite ratio, and magnesium to calcium ratio). Despite minor metabolic depression and no increase in feeding rate, shell growth was faster under OA conditions, probably due to increased precipitation of calcite and trade-offs against inner shell density. In addition, the resulting shell was functionally suitable for increasingly “corrosive” oceans, i.e., harder and less soluble shells. We conclude that mineralogical plasticity may act as a compensatory mechanism to maintain overall performance of calcifying organisms under OA conditions and could be a cornerstone of calcifying organisms to acclimate to and maintain their ecological functions in acidifying oceans.

Leung J. Y. S., Russell B. D. & Connell S. D., in press. Mineralogical plasticity acts as a compensatory mechanism to the impacts of ocean acidification. Environmental Science and Technology. Article (subscription required).

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