Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles

The proportion of body mass devoted to skeleton in marine invertebrates decreases along latitudinal gradients from large proportions in the tropics to small proportions in polar regions. A historical hypothesis—that latitudinal differences in shell production costs explain these trends—remains untested. Using field-collected specimens spanning a 79°N to 68°S latitudinal gradient (16,300 km), we conducted a taxonomically controlled evaluation of energetic costs of shell production as a proportion of the total energy budget in mollusks. Shell production cost was fairly low across latitudes at <10% of the energy budget and predominately <5% in gastropods and <4% in bivalves. Throughout life, shell cost tended to be lower in tropical species and increased slightly toward the poles. However, shell cost also varied with life stage, with the greatest costs found in young tropical gastropods. Low shell production costs on the energy budget suggest that shell cost may play only a small role in influencing proportional skeleton size gradients across latitudes relative to other ecological factors, such as predation in present-day oceans. However, any increase in the cost of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposition, including from ocean acidification, may lead to a projected ~50 to 70% increase in the proportion of the total energy budget required for shell production for a doubling of the CaCO3 deposition cost. Changes in energy budget allocation to shell cost would likely alter ecological trade-offs between calcification and other drivers, such as predation, in marine ecosystems.

Watson S.-A., Morley S. A. & Peck L. S., 2017. Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles. Science Advances 3(9): e1701362. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1701362. Article.
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