Ocean freshening and acidification differentially influence mortality and behavior of the Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica


  • Glacial retreat induced by global warming can decrease salinity and pH of the Antarctic ocean.
  • The Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica was exposed to low salinity (27 psu) and low pH (7.6) conditions.
  • Low salinity increased cannibalism and induced adjusted swimming.
  • Low pH increased mortality, impaired food detection and reduced daytime shelter use.
  • Ocean freshening and acidification act as independent stressors influencing behavior and physiology of Antarctic amphipods.


The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has experienced rapid atmospheric and ocean warming over the past few decades and many marine-terminating glaciers have considerably retreated. Glacial retreat is accompanied by fresh meltwater intrusion, which may result in the freshening and acidification of coastal waters. Marian Cove (MC), on King George Island in the WAP, undergoes one of the highest rates of glacial retreat. Intertidal and shallow subtidal waters are likely more susceptible to these processes, and sensitive biological responses are expected from the organisms inhabiting this area. The gammarid amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica is one of the most abundant species in the shallow, nearshore Antarctic waters, and it occupies an essential ecological niche in the coastal marine WAP ecosystem. In this study, we tested the sensitivity of G. antarctica to lowered salinity and pH by meltwater intrusion following glacial retreat. We exposed G. antarctica to four different treatments combining two salinities (34 and 27 psu) and pH (8.0 and 7.6) levels for 26 days. Mortality, excluding cannibalized individuals, increased under low pH but decreased under low salinity conditions. Meanwhile, low salinity increased cannibalism, whereas low pH reduced food detection. Shelter use during the daytime decreased under each low salinity and pH condition, indicating that the two stressors act as disruptors of amphipod behavior. Under low salinity conditions, swimming increased during the daytime but decreased at night. Although interactions between low salinity and low pH were not observed during the experiment, the results suggest that each stressor, likely induced by glacial melting, causes altered behaviors in amphipods. These environmental factors may threaten population persistence in Marian Cove and possibly other similar glacial embayments.

Park S., Ahn I.-Y., Sin E., Shim J. & Kim T., 2020. Ocean freshening and acidification differentially influence mortality and behavior of the Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica. Marine Environmental Research 154: 104847. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2019.104847. Article (subscription required).

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