Ocean acidification influences plant-animal interactions: the effect of Cocconeis scutellum parva on the sex reversal of Hippolyte inermis

Ocean acidification (O.A.) influences the ecology of oceans and it may impact plant-animal interactions at various levels. Seagrass meadows located at acidified vents in the Bay of Naples (Italy) are considered an open window to forecast the effects of global-changes on aquatic communities. Epiphytic diatoms of the genus Cocconeis are abundant in seagrass meadows, including acidified environments, where they play key ecological roles. A still-unknown apoptogenic compound produced by Cocconeis triggers the suicide of the androgenic gland of Hippolyte inermis Leach 1816, a protandric hermaphroditic shrimp distributed in P. oceanica meadows located both at normal pH and in acidified vents. Feeding on Cocconeis sp. was proven important for the stability of the shrimp’s natural populations. Since O.A. affects the physiology of diatoms, we investigated if, in future scenarios of O.A., Cocconeis scutellum parva will still produce an effect on shrimp’s physiology. Cell densities of Cocconeis scutellum parva cultivated in custom-designed photobioreactors at two pH conditions (pH 7.7 and 8.2) were compared. In addition, we determined the effects of the ingestion of diatoms on the process of sex reversal of H. inermis and we calculated the % female on the total of mature individuals-1 (F/mat). We observed significant differences in cell densities of C. scutellum parva at the two pH conditions. In fact, the highest cell densities (148,808 ±13,935 cells. mm-2) was obtained at day 13 (pH 7.7) and it is higher than the highest cell densities (38,066 (±4,166) cells. mm-2, day 13) produced at pH 8.2. Diatoms cultured at acidified conditions changed their metabolism. In fact, diatoms grown in acidified conditions produced in H. inermis a proportion of females (F/mat 36.3 ±5.9%) significantly lower than diatoms produced at normal pH (68.5 ±2.8), and it was not significantly different from that elicited by negative controls (31.7 ±5.6%).

Mutalipassi M., Mazzella V. & Zupo N., 2019. Ocean acidification influences plant-animal interactions: The effect of Cocconeis scutellum parva on the sex reversal of Hippolyte inermis. PLoS ONE 14(6): e0218238. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218238. Article.

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