Effects of long-term exposure to reduced pH conditions on the shell and survival of an intertidal gastropod

Highlights

• Prolonged exposures to high pCO2 can severely affect Phorcus sauciatus shell.

• No effects of high pCO2 were found on size-frequency or population density of P. sauciatus.

• Shells from reduced pH sites exhibited a higher shell aspect ratio and greater percentages of shell dissolution and break.

• Shells from high pCO2 areas exhibited changes in mechanical strength.

• Similar desiccation tolerance was found among contrasting environment populations.

Abstract

Volcanic CO2 vents are useful environments for investigating the biological responses of marine organisms to changing ocean conditions (Ocean acidification, OA). Marine shelled molluscs are highly sensitive to changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. In this study, we investigated the effects of reduced pH on the intertidal gastropod, Phorcus sauciatus, in a volcanic CO2 vent off La Palma Island (Canary Islands, North East Atlantic Ocean), a location with a natural pH gradient ranging from 7.0 to 8.2 over the tidal cycles. Density and size-frequency distribution, shell morphology, shell integrity, fracture resistance, and desiccation tolerance were evaluated between populations from control and CO2 vent sites. We found no effects of reduced pH on population parameters or desiccation tolerance across the pH gradient, but significant differences in shell morphology, shell integrity, and fracture resistance were detected. Individuals from the CO2 vent site exhibited a higher shell aspect ratio, greater percentages of shell dissolution and break, and compromised shell strength than those from the control site. Our results highlight that long-term exposure to high pCO2 can negatively affect the shell features of P. sauciatus but may not have a significant effect on population performance. Moreover, we suggest that loss of shell properties could lead to changes in predator-prey interactions.

Viotti S., Sangil C., Hernández C. A. & Hernández J. C., in press. Effects of long-term exposure to reduced pH conditions on the shell and survival of an intertidal gastropod. Marine Environmental Research. Article (subscription required).

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