Impacts of acclimation in warm-low pH conditions on the physiology of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma and carryover effects for juvenile offspring

Ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) affects nearly all aspects of marine organism physiology and it is important to consider both stressors when predicting responses to climate change. We investigated the effects of long-term exposure to OW and OA on the physiology of adults of the sea urchin, Heliocidaris erythrogramma, a species resident in the southeast Australia warming hotspot. The urchins were slowly introduced to stressor conditions in the laboratory over a 7-week adjustment period to three temperature (ambient, +2°C, +3°C) and two pH (ambient: pHT 8.0; −0.4 units: pHT 7.6) treatments. They were then maintained in a natural pattern of seasonal temperature and photoperiod change, and fixed pH, for 22 weeks. Survival was monitored through week 22 and metabolic rate was measured at 4 and 12 weeks of acclimation, feeding rate and ammonia excretion rate at 12 weeks and assimilation efficiency at 13 weeks. Acclimation to +3°C was deleterious regardless of pH. Mortality from week 6 indicated that recent marine heatwaves are likely to have been deleterious to this species. Acclimation to +2°C did not affect survival. Increased temperature decreased feeding and increased excretion rates, with no effect of acidification. While metabolic rate increased additively with temperature and low pH at week 4, there was no difference between treatments at week 12, indicating physiological acclimation in surviving urchins to stressful conditions. Regardless of treatment, H. erythrogramma had a net positive energy budget indicating that the responses were not due to energy limitation. To test for the effect of parental acclimation on offspring responses, the offspring of acclimated urchins were reared to the juvenile stage in OW and OA conditions. Parental acclimation to warming, but not acidification altered juvenile physiology with an increase in metabolic rate. Our results show that incorporation of gradual seasonal environmental change in long-term acclimation can influence outcomes, an important consideration in predicting the consequences of changing climate for marine species.

Harianto J., Aldridge J., Torres Gabarda S. A., Grainger R. J. & Byrne M., 2021. Impacts of acclimation in warm-low pH conditions on the physiology of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma and carryover effects for juvenile offspring. Frontiers in Marine Science 7: 1197. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.588938. Article.

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