The impact of ocean acidification on the gonads of three key Antarctic benthic macroinvertebrates


• Ocean Acidification may act as an endocrine disruptor on invertebrate gonads

• Different species show different response to low pH in a simultaneous exposure

• Gametogenic stage and feeding condition affect the species response to low pH


CO2 atmospheric pressure is increasing since industrial revolution, leading to a lowering of the ocean surface water pH, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification, with several reported effects on individual species and cascading effects on marine ecosystems. Despite the great amount of literature on ocean acidification effects on calcifying organisms, the response of their reproductive system still remains poorly known. In the present study, we investigated the histopathological effects of low pH on the gonads of three key macroinvertebrates of the Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea) littoral area: the sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri, the sea star Odontaster validus and the scallop Adamussium colbecki. After 1 month of exposure at control (8.12) and reduced (7.8 and 7.6) pH levels, we dissected the gonads and performed histological analyses to detect potential differences among treatments. Results showed significant effects on reproductive conditions of A. colbecki and S. neumayeri, while O. validus did not show any kind of alteration. Present results reinforce the need to focus on ocean acidification effects on soft tissues, particularly the gonads, whose damage may exert large effects on the individual fitness, with cascading effects on the population dynamic of the species.

Dell’Acqua O., Ferrando S., Chiantore M. & Asnaghi V., in press. The impact of ocean acidification on the gonads of three key Antarctic benthic macroinvertebrates. Aquatic Toxicology. Article (subscription required).

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