Assessment of the juvenile vulnerability of symbiont-bearing giant clams to ocean acidification


  • Physiological and molecular responses were investigated in response to OA.
  • OA did not caused reduction in survival and shell growth performance.
  • OA significantly reduced NCR, symbiont photosynthetic yield and density.
  • Giant clams can modulating expression of metabolic and ion transport genes to OA.


Ocean acidification (OA) severely affects marine bivalves, especially their calcification processes. However, very little is known about the fate of symbiont-bearing giant clams in the acidified oceans, which hinders our ability to develop strategies to protect this ecologically and economically important group in coral reef ecosystems. Here, we explored the integrated juvenile responses of fluted giant clam Tridacna squamosa (Lamarck, 1819) to acidified seawater at different levels of biological organization. Our results revealed that OA did not cause a significant reduction in survival and shell growth performance, indicating that T. squamosa juveniles are tolerated to moderate acidification. Yet, significantly reduced net calcification rate demonstrated the calcifying physiology sensitivity to OA, in line with significant declines in symbiont photosynthetic yield and zooxanthellae density which in turn lowered the amount of energy supply for energetically expensive calcification processes. Subsequent transcriptome sequencing and comparative analysis of differentially expressed genes revealed that the regulation of calcification processes, such as transport of calcification substrates, acid-base regulation, synthesis of organic matrix in the calcifying fluid, as well as metabolic depression were the major response to OA. Taken together, the integration of physiological and molecular responses can provide a comprehensive understanding of how the early life history stages of giant clams respond to OA and make an important leap forward in assessing their fate under future ocean conditions.

Li J., Zhou Y., Qin Y., Wei J., Shigong P., Ma H., Li Y., Yuan X., Zhao L., Yan H., Zhang Y. & Yu Z., 2022. Assessment of the juvenile vulnerability of symbiont-bearing giant clams to ocean acidification. Science of the Total Environment. 812: 152265. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.152265. Article. (subscription required)

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