A 120‐year record of resilience to environmental change in brachiopods

The inability of organisms to cope in changing environments poses a major threat to their survival. Rising carbon dioxide concentrations, recently exceeding 400 μatm, are rapidly warming and acidifying our oceans. Current understanding of organism responses to this environmental phenomenon is based mainly on relatively short‐ to medium‐term laboratory and field experiments, which cannot evaluate the potential for long‐term acclimation and adaptation, the processes identified as most important to confer resistance. Here, we present data from a novel approach that assesses responses over a centennial timescale showing remarkable resilience to change in a species predicted to be vulnerable. Utilising museum collections allows the assessment of how organisms have coped with past environmental change. It also provides a historical reference for future climate change responses. We evaluated a unique specimen collection of a single species of brachiopod (Calloria inconspicua) collected every decade from 1900 to 2014 from one sampling site. The majority of brachiopod shell characteristics remained unchanged over the past century. One response, however, appears to reinforce their shell by constructing narrower punctae (shell perforations) and laying down more shell. This study indicates one of the most calcium‐carbonate‐dependent species globally to be highly resilient to environmental change over the last 120 years and provides a new insight for how similar species might react and possibly adapt to future change.

Cross E. L., Harper E. M., & Peck L. S., in press. A 120‐year record of resilience to environmental change in brachiopods. Global Change Biology. Article.

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