Within- and trans-generational responses to combined global changes are highly divergent in two congeneric species of marine annelids

Trans-generational plasticity (TGP) represents a primary mechanism for guaranteeing species persistence under rapid global changes. To date, no study on TGP responses of marine organisms to global change scenarios in the ocean has been conducted on phylogenetically closely related species, and we thus lack a true appreciation for TGP inter-species variation. Consequently, we examined the tolerance and TGP of life-history and physiological traits in two annelid species within the genus Ophryotrocha: one rare (O. robusta) and one common (O. japonica). Both species were exposed over two generations to ocean acidification (OA) and warming (OW) in isolation and in combination (OAW). Warming scenarios led to a decrease in energy production together with an increase in energy requirements, which was lethal for O. robusta before viable offspring could be produced by the F1. Under OA conditions, O. robusta was able to reach the second generation, despite showing lower survival and reproductive performance when compared to control conditions. This was accompanied by a marked increase in fecundity and egg volume in F2 females, suggesting high capacity for TGP under OA. In contrast, O. japonica thrived under all scenarios across both generations, maintaining its fitness levels via adjusting its metabolomic profile. Overall, the two species investigated show a great deal of difference in their ability to tolerate and respond via TGP to future global changes. We emphasize the potential implications this can have for the determination of extinction risk, and consequently, the conservation of phylogenetically closely related species.

Thibault C., Massamba-N’Siala G., Noisette F., Vermandele F., Babin M. & Calosi P., 2020. Within- and trans-generational responses to combined global changes are highly divergent in two congeneric species of marine annelids. Marine Biology 167: 41. doi: 10.1007/s00227-019-3644-8. Article (subscription required).

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