Different ecological histories of sea urchins acclimated to reduced pH influence offspring response to multiple stressors

End-of-the-century predictions on carbon dioxide (CO2) driven ocean acidification and the continuous leakage of pesticides from inland to coastal areas are of concern for potential negative effects on marine species’ early life stages which are the most vulnerable to environmental changes. Variations in seawater chemistry related to human activities may interfere with the normal development from embryo to juvenile/adult stage. However, transgenerational studies suggest that the parental generation can influence the offspring phenotype, and thus their performances, based on the environment experienced. Here we compared the transgenerational responses to a multiple stressor scenario in sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus) that experienced different environments since their settlement: i.e., animals from a highly variable environment, such as the Venice lagoon, versus animals from a coastal area with prevailing oligotrophic conditions in the Northern Adriatic Sea. After long-term maintenance (2 and 6 months) of adult sea urchins at natural and −0.4 units reduced pH, the F1 generations were obtained. Embryos were reared under four experimental conditions: natural and −0.4 pH both in the absence and in the presence of an emerging contaminants’ mixture (glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid at environmentally relevant concentrations, 100 μg/L). A significant detrimental effect of both the parental and the filial pH was highlighted, affecting embryo development and growth. Nonetheless, sea urchins from both sites were able to cope with ocean acidification. The 6-months F1 response was better than that of the 2-months F1. Conversely, the F1 response of the sea urchins maintained at natural conditions did not change sensibly after more prolonged parental exposure. An additive but mild negative effect of the mixture was observed, mostly in lagoon offspring. Results suggest that long-term exposure to reduced pH leads to transgenerational acclimation but does not affect susceptibility to the tested pollutants.

Asnicar D., Zanovello L., Badocco D., Munari M. & Marin M. G., 2022. Different ecological histories of sea urchins acclimated to reduced pH influence offspring response to multiple stressors. Environmental Research: 113131. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113131. Article (subscription required).

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