Interactive effects of pH and temperature on native and alien mussels from the west coast of South Africa

Global warming and ocean acidification influence marine calcifying organisms, particularly those with external shells. Among these, mussels may compensate for environmental changes by phenotypic plasticity, but this may entail trade-offs between shell deposition, growth and reproduction. We assessed main and interactive effects of pH and temperature on four mussel species on the west coast of South Africa (33°48′ S, 18°27′ E) in October 2012 by comparing shell dissolution, shell growth, shell breaking force and condition index of two native species, the ribbed mussel Aulacomya atra and the black mussel Choromytilus meridionalis, and two aliens, the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis and the bisexual mussel Semimytilus algosus. Live mussels and dead shells were exposed for 42 days to seawater of pH 7.5 or 8.0, at 14 °C or 20 °C. Low pH, high temperature and their combination increased shell dissolution of the two aliens but their growth rates and condition indices remained unchanged. Aulacomya atra also experienced greater shell dissolution at a low pH and high temperature, but grew faster in low-pH treatments. For C. meridionalis, shell dissolution was unaffected by pH or temperature; it also grew faster in low-pH treatments, but had a lower condition index in the higher temperature treatment. Shell strength was not determined by thickness alone. In most respects, all four species proved to be robust to short-term reduction of pH and elevation of temperature, but the native species compensated for greater shell dissolution at low pH by increasing growth rate, whereas the aliens did not, so their invasive success cannot be ascribed to benefits accruing from climate change.

Emanuel M. P., Pillay D., van der Merwe M. & Branch G. M., 2020. Interactive effects of pH and temperature on native and alien mussels from the west coast of South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science 42:1, 1-12. Article (subscription required).

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