The effects of elevated CO2 on shell properties and susceptibility to predation in mussels Mytilus edulis


• Ocean acidification is a major threat to marine ecosystem structure and functioning.
• 2100 pCO2 scenario reduced Mytilus shell thickness & area, body volume and feeding rate.
• Predation risk susceptibility changes under future climate scenarios.
• Large prey not susceptible to predation today 8x more at risk under OA scenarios.
• Significant changes to ecosystem structure and functioning predicted for future.


For many species, ocean acidification (OA) is having negative physiological consequences on their fitness and resilience to environmental change, but less is known about the ecosystem effects of these changes. Here, we assess how OA conditions predicted for 2100 affects the biological functioning of an important habitat-forming species Mytilus edulis and its susceptibility to predation by a key predator, the gastropod Nucella lapillus. Change in three physiological parameters in Mytilus were assessed: (1) shell thickness and cross-sectional surface area, (2) body volume and (3) feeding rate, as well as susceptibility to predation by N. lapillus. Shell thickness and cross-section area, body volume and feeding rate of Mytilus all reduced under OA conditions indicating compromised fitness. Predation risk increased by ∼26% under OA, suggesting increased susceptibility of mussels to predation and/or altered predator foraging behaviour. Notably, predation of large Mytilus – that were largely free from predation under control conditions – increased by more than 8x under OA, suggesting that body size was no longer a refuge. Our results suggest OA will impact upon ecosystem structure and functioning and the continued provision of ecosystem services associated with Mytilus reefs and the communities associated with them.

Sadler D. E., Lemasson A. J. & Knights A. M., in press. The effects of elevated CO2 on shell properties and susceptibility to predation in mussels Mytilus edulis. Marine Environmental Research. Article (subscription required).

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