Influence of ontogenetic development, temperature, and pCO2 on otolith calcium carbonate polymorph composition in sturgeons

Changes to calcium carbonate (CaCO3) biomineralization in aquatic organisms is among the many predicted effects of climate change. Because otolith (hearing/orientation structures in fish) CaCO3 precipitation and polymorph composition are controlled by genetic and environmental factors, climate change may be predicted to affect the phenotypic plasticity of otoliths. We examined precipitation of otolith polymorphs (aragonite, vaterite, calcite) during early life history in two species of sturgeon, Lake Sturgeon, (Acipenser fulvescens) and White Sturgeon (A. transmontanus), using quantitative X-ray microdiffraction. Both species showed similar fluctuations in otolith polymorphs with a significant shift in the proportions of vaterite and aragonite in sagittal otoliths coinciding with the transition to fully exogenous feeding. We also examined the effect of the environment on otolith morphology and polymorph composition during early life history in Lake Sturgeon larvae reared in varying temperature (16/22 °C) and pCO2 (1000/2500 µatm) environments for 5 months. Fish raised in elevated temperature had significantly increased otolith size and precipitation of large single calcite crystals. Interestingly, pCO2 had no statistically significant effect on size or polymorph composition of otoliths despite blood pH exhibiting a mild alkalosis, which is contrary to what has been observed in several studies on marine fishes. These results suggest climate change may influence otolith polymorph composition during early life history in Lake Sturgeon.

Loeppky A. R., Belding L. D., Quijada-Rodriguez A. R., Morgan J. D., Pracheil B. M., Chakoumakos B. C. & Anderson W. G., 2021. Influence of ontogenetic development, temperature, and pCO2 on otolith calcium carbonate polymorph composition in sturgeons. Scientific Reports 11: 13878. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-93197-6. Article.


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