Ocean acidification increases the sensitivity of and variability in physiological responses of an intertidal limpet to thermal stress (update)

Understanding physiological responses of organisms to warming and ocean acidification is the first step towards predicting the potential population- and community-level ecological impacts of these stressors. Increasingly, physiological plasticity is being recognized as important for organisms to adapt to the changing microclimates. Here, we evaluate the importance of physiological plasticity for coping with ocean acidification and elevated temperature, and its variability among individuals, of the intertidal limpet Cellana toreuma from the same population in Xiamen. Limpets were collected from shaded mid-intertidal rock surfaces. They were acclimated under combinations of different pCO2 concentrations (400 and 1000 ppm, corresponding to a pH of 8.1 and 7.8) and temperatures (20 and 24 °C) in a short-term period (7 days), with the control conditions (20 °C and 400 ppm) representing the average annual temperature and present-day pCO2 level at the collection site. Heart rates (as a proxy for metabolic performance) and expression of genes encoding inducible and constitutive heat-shock proteins (hsp70 and hsc70) at different heat-shock temperatures (26, 30, 34, and 38 °C) were measured. Hsp70 and Hsc70 play important roles in protecting cells from heat stresses, but have different expression patterns, with Hsp70 significantly increased in expression during stress and Hsc70 constitutively expressed and only mildly induced during stress. Analysis of heart rate showed significantly higher temperature coefficients (Q10 rates) for limpets at 20 °C than at 24 °C and post-acclimation thermal sensitivity of limpets at 400 ppm was lower than at 1000 ppm. Expression of hsp70 linearly increased with the increasing heat-shock temperatures, with the largest slope occurring in limpets acclimated under a future scenario (24 °C and 1000 ppm pCO2). These results suggested that limpets showed increased sensitivity and stress response under future conditions. Furthermore, the increased variation in physiological response under the future scenario indicated that some individuals have higher physiological plasticity to cope with these conditions. While short-term acclimation to reduced pH seawater decreases the ability of partial individuals against thermal stress, physiological plasticity and variability seem to be crucial in allowing some intertidal animals to survive in a rapidly changing environment.

Wang J., Russell B. D., Ding M.-W. & Dong Y.-W., 2018. Ocean acidification increases the sensitivity of and variability in physiological responses of an intertidal limpet to thermal stress. Biogeosciences 15(9): 2803-2817. Article.

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