Ocean acidification changes the vertical movement of stone crab larvae

Anthropogenic activities are increasing ocean temperature and decreasing ocean pH. Some coastal habitats are experiencing increases in organic runoff, which when coupled with a loss of vegetated coastline can accelerate reductions in seawater pH. Marine larvae that hatch in coastal habitats may not have the ability to respond to elevated temperature and changes in seawater pH. This study examined the response of Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) larvae to elevated temperature (30°C control and 32°C treatment) and CO2-induced reductions in pH (8.05 pH control and 7.80 pH treatment). We determined whether those singular and simultaneous stressors affect larval vertical movement at two developmental stages. Geotactic responses varied between larval stages. The direction and rate of the vertical displacement of larvae were dependent on pH rather than temperature. Stage III larvae swam upwards under ambient pH conditions, but swam downwards at a faster rate under reduced pH. There was no observable change in the directional movement of Stage V larvae. The reversal in orientation by Stage III larvae may limit larval transport in habitats that experience reduced pH and could pose challenges for the northward dispersal of stone crabs as coastal temperatures warm.

Gravinese P. M., Enochs I. C., Manzello D. P. & Woesik R., 2019. Ocean acidification changes the vertical movement of stone crab larvae. Biology Letters 15 (12): 20190414. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0414. Article.

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