Saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin bioavailability increases in future oceans

Increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are largely absorbed by the world’s oceans, decreasing surface water pH. In combination with increasing ocean temperatures, these changes have been identified as a major sustainability threat to future marine life. Interactions between marine organisms are known to depend on biomolecules, but the influence of oceanic pH on their bioavailability and functionality remains unexplored. Here we show that global change significantly impacts two ecological keystone molecules in the ocean, the paralytic toxins saxitoxin (STX) and tetrodotoxin (TTX). Increasing temperatures and declining pH increase the abundance of the toxic forms of these two neurotoxins in the water. Our geospatial global model highlights where this increased toxicity could intensify the devastating impact of harmful algal blooms on ecosystems in the future, for example through an increased incidence of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). We also use these results to calculate future saxitoxin toxicity levels in Alaskan clams, Saxidomus gigantea, showing critical exceedance of limits save for consumption. Our findings for TTX and STX exemplarily highlight potential consequences of changing pH and temperature on chemicals dissolved in the sea. This reveals major implications not only for ecotoxicology, but also for chemical signals mediating species interactions such as foraging, reproduction, or predation in the ocean with unexplored consequences for ecosystem stability and ecosystem services.

Roggatz C. C., Fletcher N., Benoit D. M., Algar A. C., Doroff A., Wright B., Valero K. C. W. & Hardege J. D., in press. Saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin bioavailability increases in future oceans. bioRxiv. Article.

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