Ocean acidification and warming affect skeletal mineralization in a marine fish

Ocean acidification and warming are known to alter, and in many cases decrease, calcification rates of shell and reef building marine invertebrates. However, to date, there are no datasets on the combined effect of ocean pH and temperature on skeletal mineralization of marine vertebrates, such as fishes. Here, the embryos of an oviparous marine fish, the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea), were developmentally acclimatized to current and increased temperature and CO2 conditions as expected by the year 2100 (15 and 20°C, approx. 400 and 1100 µatm, respectively), in a fully crossed experimental design. Using micro-computed tomography, hydroxyapatite density was estimated in the mineralized portion of the cartilage in jaws, crura, vertebrae, denticles and pectoral fins of juvenile skates. Mineralization increased as a consequence of high CO2 in the cartilage of crura and jaws, while temperature decreased mineralization in the pectoral fins. Mineralization affects stiffness and strength of skeletal elements linearly, with implications for feeding and locomotion performance and efficiency. This study is, to my knowledge, the first to quantify a significant change in mineralization in the skeleton of a fish and shows that changes in temperature and pH of the oceans have complex effects on fish skeletal morphology.

Santo V. D., 2019. Ocean acidification and warming affect skeletal mineralization in a marine fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286: 20182187. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2187. Article.


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