Mussels repair shell damage despite limitations imposed by ocean acidification

Bivalves frequently withstand shell damage that must be quickly repaired to ensure survival. While the processes that underlie larval shell development have been extensively studied within the context of ocean acidification (OA), it remains unclear whether shell repair is impacted by elevated pCO2. To better understand the stereotypical shell repair process, we monitored mussels (Mytilus edulis) with sublethal shell damage that breached the mantle cavity within both field and laboratory conditions to characterize the deposition rate, composition, and integrity of repaired shell. Results were then compared with a laboratory experiment wherein mussels (Mytilus trossulus) repaired shell damage in one of seven pCO2 treatments (400–2500 µatm). Shell repair proceeded through distinct stages; an organic membrane first covered the damaged area (days 1–15), followed by the deposition of calcite crystals (days 22–43) and aragonite tablets (days 51–69). OA did not impact the ability of mussels to close drill holes, nor the microstructure, composition, or integrity of end-point repaired shell after 10 weeks, as measured by µCT and SEM imaging, energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis, and mechanical testing. However, significant interactions between pCO2, the length of exposure to treatment conditions, the strength and inorganic content of shell, and the physiological condition of mussels within OA treatments were observed. These results suggest that while OA does not prevent adult mussels from repairing or mineralizing shell, both OA and shell damage may elicit stress responses that impose energetic constraints on mussel physiology.

George M. N., O’Donnell M. J., Concodello M. & Carrington E., 2022. Mussels repair shell damage despite limitations imposed by ocean acidification. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 10(3): 359. doi: 10.3390/jmse10030359. Article.

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