Heatwaves diminish the survival of a subtidal gastropod through reduction in energy budget and depletion of energy reserves

Extreme climatic events, such as heatwaves, are predicted to be more prevalent in future due to global climate change. The devastating impacts of heatwaves on the survival of marine organisms may be further intensified by ocean acidification. Here, we tested the hypothesis that prolonged exposure to heatwave temperatures (24 °C, +3 °C summer seawater temperature) would diminish energy budget, body condition and ultimately survival of a subtidal gastropod (Thalotia conica) by pushing close to its critical thermal maximum (CTmax). We also tested whether ocean acidification (pCO2: 1000 ppm) affects energy budget, CTmax and hence survival of this gastropod. Following the 8-week experimental period, mortality was markedly higher at 24 °C irrespective of pCO2 level, probably attributed to energy deficit (negative scope for growth) and concomitant depletion of energy reserves (reduced organ weight to flesh weight ratio). CTmax of T. conica appeared at 27 °C and was unaffected by ocean acidification. Our findings imply that prolonged exposure to heatwaves can compromise the survival of marine organisms below CTmax via disruption in energy homeostasis, which possibly explains their mass mortality in the past heatwave events. Therefore, heatwaves would have more profound effects than ocean acidification on future marine ecosystems.

Leung J. Y. S., Connell S. D. & Russell B. D., 2017. Heatwaves diminish the survival of a subtidal gastropod through reduction in energy budget and depletion of energy reserves. Scientific Reports 7: 17688. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-16341-1. Article.

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