Elevated temperature has adverse effects on GABA-mediated avoidance behaviour to sediment acidification in a wide-ranging marine bivalve

Sediment acidification is known to influence the burrowing behaviour of juvenile marine bivalves. Unlike the alteration of behaviour by ocean acidification (OA) observed in many marine organisms, this burrowing response to present-day variation in sediment pH is likely adaptive in that it allows these organisms to avoid shell dissolution and mortality. However, the consequences of global climate stressors on these burrowing responses have yet to be tested. Further, while neurotransmitter interference appears to be linked to the alteration of behaviour by OA in marine vertebrates, the mechanism(s) controlling the burrowing responses of juvenile bivalves in response to present-day variation in sediment acidification remain unknown. We tested the interactive effects of elevated seawater temperature and sediment acidification on juvenile soft-shell clam burrowing behaviour (measured as the proportion of clams burrowed into sediment) to test for effects of elevated temperature on bivalve burrowing responses to sediment acidification. We also examined whether GABAA-like receptor interference could act as a potential biological mechanism underpinning the burrowing responses of these clams to present-day variation in sediment acidification. Results showed that both elevated temperature and gabazine administration reduced the proportion of clams that avoided burrowing into low pH sediment. These results suggest that CO2 effects on neurophysiology (GABAA receptors) can act to mediate adaptive behaviours in juvenile marine bivalves to elevated CO2, but that these behaviours may be adversely affected by elevated temperature.

Clements J. C., Bishop M. M. & Hunt H. L., 2017. Elevated temperature has adverse effects on GABA-mediated avoidance behaviour to sediment acidification in a wide-ranging marine bivalve. Marine Biology 164:56. Article (subscription required).

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