Construction of an accessible ocean-acidification simulator to investigate physiological responses of the green crab, Carcinus maenas, to acidified conditions

The European green crab Carcinus maenas L, is a major invasive species in North America as well as many other regions around the world, including South Africa, Australia, South America, and Asia. The species poses a significant threat to the diverse ecosystems and the aquaculture industries on the East coast of the United States, with the state of Maine particularly at risk. The shellfish industry is a significant part of Maine’s economy, and is threatened by the foraging behavior of green crabs toward small bivalves (Beal 2015). Climate change likely plays a large role in the rapid population growth of C. maenas over the last 5-10 years by opening up marginal habitats for the crabs to occupy (Beal 2015). Steroid activity is highly dependent on environmental conditions, and changes in temperature have been linked to the ecological success of C. maenas.

This project will focus on developing an accessible low-cost ocean-acidification simulator at the University of Maine Aquaculture Research Center to be used to explore physiological responses of C. maenas to acidified conditions and quantify estradiol levels in the animals using an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Animal trials conducted with the system will provide information on parameters related to the effect of acidic stress on the endocrine system of green crabs. Additionally, the outlines for the construction of the simulator can be used as a model for students for an inexpensive holding facility to test effects of acidification. Data obtained from the Accessible Low-Cost Ocean Acidification Simulation Tool (ALCOAST) can also be used by policy makers to evaluate whether climate change can provide information on physiological interactions between C. maenas and its environment. This study stands to fill a significant gap in knowledge that is relevant not only to Maine’s economy and management of invasive species, but also to studies of how invasive species react to climate change.

Spangenberg C. M., 2018. Construction of an accessible ocean-acidification simulator to investigate physiological responses of the green crab, Carcinus maenas, to acidified conditions. Honors thesis, University of Maine, 28 p. Thesis.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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