Effect of reduced pH on physiology and shell integrity of juvenile Haliotis iris (pāua) from New Zealand

The New Zealand pāua or black footed abalone, Haliotis iris, is one of many mollusc species at potential risk from ocean acidification and warming. To investigate possible impacts, juvenile pāua (~24 mm shell length) were grown for 4 months in seawater pH/pCO2 conditions projected for 2100. End of century seawater projections (pHT 7.66/pCO2 ~1,000 μatm) were contrasted with local ambient conditions (pHT 8.00/pCO2 ~400 μatm) at two typical temperatures (13 and 15 °C). We used a combination of methods (morphometric, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction) to investigate effects on juvenile survival and growth, as well as shell mineralogy and integrity. Lowered pH did not affect survival, growth rate or condition, but animals grew significantly faster at the higher temperature. Juvenile pāua were able to biomineralise their inner nacreous aragonite layer and their outer prismatic calcite layer under end-of-century pH conditions, at both temperatures, and carbonate composition was not affected. There was some thickening of the nacre layer in the newly deposited shell with reduced pH and also at the higher temperature. Most obvious was post-depositional alteration of the shell under lowered pH: the prismatic calcite layer was thinner, and there was greater etching of the external shell surface; this dissolution was greater at the higher temperature. These results demonstrate the importance of even a small (2 °C) difference in temperature on growth and shell characteristics, and on modifying the effects at lowered pH. Projected CO2-related changes may affect shell quality of this iconic New Zealand mollusc through etching (dissolution) and thinning, with potential implications for resilience to physical stresses such as predation and wave action.

Cummings V. J.,​ Smith A. M., Marriott P. M., Peebles B. A. & Halliday N. J., in press. Effect of reduced pH on physiology and shell integrity of juvenile Haliotis iris (pāua) from New Zealand. PeerJ 7: e7670. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7670. Article.

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