Transgenerational responses of a gammarid amphipod to ocean acidification: effects on reproductive traits, mate detection and metabolism

Ocean acidification (OA) poses a global threat to marine biodiversity. The rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, resulting from anthropogenic activities, is responsible for the increase in the dissolved state of this gas in the oceans. The consequent changes in pH and seawater carbonate chemistry are responsible for the disruption of several biological processes (e.g. impairing survival and the maintenance of fitness-enhancing, physiological and behavioural, mechanisms) in certain marine groups. Disruption at the individual level, can originate negative cascading effects at higher levels of biological organization (i.e. populations and communities), which in turn can alter the underlying dynamics that control an ecosystem’s structure and overall function. Current theories suggest that marine organisms might be able to maintain their performance in future OA conditions, either through acclimation or through evolutionary adaptation. Surprisingly, the effects of prolonged high-CO2 exposure in crustaceans are still poorly known. The present dissertation investigates, for the first time, the transgenerational effects (i.e. over two generations) of ocean acidification in the physiology, behaviour (e.g. male mate-attraction) and reproductive traits (e.g. female investment, fecundity, mate-guarding and embryonic development) of the gammarid amphipod Gammarus locusta. Significant effects of ocean acidification were found for most reproductive traits. Although OA may initially stimulate female investment, transgenerational exposure led to an overall reduction in egg number and fecundity. The duration of mate-guarding behaviours was also diminished under high-CO2 exposure. Individuals from the second generation (F1) exhibited metabolic depression (i.e. reduced oxygen consumption rates), and males also displayed a reduced ability to accurately identify and track the origin of female scent cues, thus hinting at a possible disruption of chemosensory abilities. Overall, negative transgenerational (i.e. parental) effects were observed for all reproductive traits, as well as survival, in the acidified lineage. The present findings suggest that exposure to a future ocean acidification scenario will likely lead to a reduction in the fitness of the natural populations of G. locusta.

Borges, F.-d.-M.-d., 2017. Transgenerational responses of a gammarid amphipod to ocean acidification: effects on reproductive traits, mate detection and metabolism. MSc thesis, University of Lisbon. Thesis.

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