Variation in the effects of ocean acidification on shell growth and strength in two intertidal gastropods

Many marine organisms rely on calcified hard parts to resist predation, and ocean acidification (OA) affects calcification negatively. However, calcification-related consequences may manifest in variable and/or cryptic ways across species. For example, shell strength is a primary defense for resisting shell-crushing predation, yet the consequences of OA on such biomechanical properties cannot be assessed visually. We exposed 2 species of intertidal gastropods common to the west coast of North America (the black turban snail Tegula funebralis and the striped dogwhelk Nucella ostrina) to OA (pH decreased by ~0.5 units) and predation cues for 6 mo, then measured both shell growth and strength. Shell growth in T. funebralis was significantly depressed under OA and in the presence of predation cues (declines of 83 and 63%, respectively). Shells produced by OA-exposed T. funebralis were also 50% weaker. In contrast, shell growth of N. ostrina was unaffected by OA, yet its shells were still 10% weaker. These findings highlight the potential for both different and easily overlooked responses of organisms to seawater acidification. Moreover, such results raise the possibility of ensuing shifts in consumption rates and rankings of prey items by shell-crushing predators, leading to shifts in the balance of species interactions in temperate shoreline communities.

Barclay K. M., Gaylord B., Jellison B. M., Shukla P., Sanford E. & Leighton L. R., 2019. Variation in the effects of ocean acidification on shell growth and strength in two intertidal gastropods. Marine Ecology Progress Series 626:109-121. Article (subscription required).

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