Ocean acidification impacts growth and shell mineralization in juvenile abalone (Haliotis tuberculata)

Ocean acidification (OA) is a major global driver that leads to substantial changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, with potentially serious consequences for calcifying organisms. Marine shelled molluscs are ecologically and economically important species, providing essential ecosystem services and food sources for other species. Due to their physiological characteristics and their use of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) to build their shells, molluscs are among the most vulnerable invertebrates with regard to OA, with early developmental stages being particularly sensitive to pH changes. This study investigated the effects of CO2-induced OA on juveniles of the European abalone Haliotis tuberculata, a commercially important gastropod species. Six-month-old juvenile abalones were cultured for 3 months at four pH levels (8.1, 7.8, 7.7, 7.6) representing current and predicted near-future conditions. Survival, growth, shell microstructure, thickness, and strength were compared across the four pH treatments. After 3 months of exposure, significant reductions in juvenile shell length, weight, and strength were revealed in the pH 7.6 treatment. Scanning electron microscopy observations also revealed modified texture and porosity of the shell mineral layers as well as alterations of the periostracum at pH 7.6 which was the only treatment with an aragonite saturation state below 1. It is concluded that low pH induces both general effects on growth mechanisms and corrosion of deposited shell in H. tuberculata. This will impact both the ecological role of this species and the costs of its aquaculture.

Auzoux-Bordenave S., Wessel N., Badou A., Martin S., M’Zoudi S., Avignon S., Roussel S., Huchette S. & Dubois P., 2019. Ocean acidification impacts growth and shell mineralization in juvenile abalone (Haliotis tuberculata). Marine Biology 167: 11. doi: 10.1007/s00227-019-3623-0. Article (subscription required).

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