The effect of ocean acidification on the intertidal hermit crab Pagurus criniticornis is not modulated by cheliped amputation and sex

Highlights

• First study to assess long-term combined effects of OA, autotomy and sex on crustaceans.

• Crabs exposed to OA exhibited reduced survivorship, molting frequency and lipid content.

• Males showed increased molting frequency and higher regeneration rate than females.

• Interactive effects of pH, autotomy and sex were evidenced only for calcium content.

• There are no evident synergy of autotomy and sex on the effects of OA on hermit crabs.

Abstract

Impacts of the interactive effects of ocean acidification (OA) with other anthropogenic environmental stressors on marine biodiversity are receiving increasing attention in recent years. However, little is known about how organismal responses to OA may be influenced by common phenomena such as autotomy and sexual dimorphism. This study evaluated the long-term (120 days) combined effects of OA (pH 7.7), experimental cheliped amputation and sex on physiological stress (mortality, growth, number of molts, cheliped regeneration and startle response) and energy budget (lipid and calcium contents) in the intertidal sexually-dimorphic hermit crab Pagurus criniticornis. Crabs exposed to OA reduced survivorship (46%), molting frequency (36%) and lipid content (42%). Autotomised crabs and males molted more frequently (39% and 32%, respectively). Males presented higher regeneration (33%) and lower lipid content (24%). The few synergistic effects recorded did not indicate any clear pattern among treatments however, (1) a stronger reduction in lipid content was recorded in non-autotomised crabs exposed to low pH; (2) calcium content was higher in males than females only for autotomised crabs under control pH; and (3) autotomised females showed a proportionally slower activity recovery than autotomised males. Although our results suggest an effect of long-term exposure to low pH on the physiological stress and energy budget of Pagurus criniticornis, the physiological repertoire and plasticity associated with limb regeneration and the maintenance of dimorphism in secondary sexual characters may provide resilience to long-term exposure to OA.

Turra A., Ragagnin M. N., McCarthy I. D. & Fernandez W. S., in press. The effect of ocean acidification on the intertidal hermit crab Pagurus criniticornis is not modulated by cheliped amputation and sex. Marine Environmental Research. Article (subscription required).

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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