Behavioral defenses of shellfish prey under ocean acidification

Biological interactions between predators and prey constitute a key component of the ecology and evolution of marine systems, and animal behavior can affect the outcome of predator–prey interactions. It has been recently demonstrated that CO2-induced ocean acidification can alter the behavior of marine organisms and potentially alter predator–prey dynamics. This study combines both quantitative (meta-analysis) and qualitative approaches to review the effects of ocean acidification on behavioral prey defenses in marine invertebrates. A systematic literature search identified 34 studies that experimentally assessed behavioral defenses under elevated pCO2 spanning three phyla: crustaceans, echinoderms, and molluscs. A meta-analysis suggested that exposure to elevated seawater pCO2 can negatively affect behavioral defenses in bivalve molluscs and malacostracan crustaceans. By contrast, defenses of cephalopod molluscs seem to be positively impacted by elevated pCO2, whereas gastropods and echinoids appear unaffected. A qualitative assessment of studies on combined effects of ocean acidification and warming revealed that combined effects typically differ from ocean acidification–only effects. Based on a qualitative assessment of three studies to date, neurological interference of GABAA receptors under elevated pCO2 may play a major role in ocean acidification effects on prey defense behaviors; however, more research is needed, and other mechanistic underpinnings are also important to consider. Ultimately, the results of this study suggest that behavioral prey defenses in some shellfish taxa may be vulnerable to ocean acidification, that the effects of ocean acidification are often different under warming scenarios than under present-day temperature scenarios, and that GABAA interference may be an important mechanism underpinning behavioral responses of shellfish prey under ocean acidification. Despite the importance of shellfish behavioral defenses in the ecology and evolution of marine biological communities, however, research to date has only scraped the surface in understanding ocean acidification effects. Increased research efforts on the effects of multiple stressors, acclimation and adaptation, environmental variability, and complex situational and ecological contexts are needed. Studies of fish behavioral defenses under ocean acidification can help streamline hypotheses and experimental approaches, particularly given the similar effects of elevated pCO2 on GABAA function.

Clements J. C. & Comeau L. A., 2019. Behavioral defenses of shellfish prey under ocean acidification. Journal of Shellfish Research 38 (3): 725-742. Article (subscription required).

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