Impaired hatching exacerbates the high CO2 sensitivity of embryonic sand lance Ammodytes dubius

Rising oceanic pCO2 levels could affect many traits in fish early life stages, but only few species to date have shown direct CO2-induced survival reductions. This might partly be because species from less CO2-variable, offshore environments in higher latitudes are currently underrepresented in the literature. We conducted new experimental work on northern sand lance Ammodytes dubius, a keystone forage fish on offshore Northwest Atlantic sand banks, which was recently suggested to be highly CO2-sensitive. In two complementary trials, we produced embryos from wild, Gulf of Maine (GoM) spawners and reared them at several pCO2 levels (~400–2000 µatm) in combination with static (6, 7, 10°C) and dynamic (10 → 5°C) temperature treatments. Again, we consistently observed large, CO2-induced reductions in hatching success (–23% at 1000 µatm, -61% at ~2000 µatm), and the effects were temperature-independent. To distinguish pCO2 effects during development from potential impacts on hatching itself, some embryos were switched between high and control pCO2 treatments just prior to hatch. This indeed altered hatching patterns consistent with the CO2-impaired hatching hypothesis. High CO2 also delayed the day of first hatch in one trial and peak hatch in the other, where later-hatched larvae were of similar size but with progressively less endogenous energy reserves. For context, we extracted seasonal pCO2 projections for Stellwagen Bank (GoM) from regional ensemble simulations, which indicated a CO2-induced reduction in sand lance hatching success to 71% of contemporary levels by 2100. The species’ unusual CO2 sensitivity has large ecological and scientific ramifications that warrant future in-depth research.

Baumann H., Jones L. F., Murray C. S., Siedlecki S. A., Alexander M., & Cross E. L., in press. Impaired hatching exacerbates the high CO2 sensitivity of embryonic sand lance Ammodytes dubius. Marine Ecology Progress Series. Article.

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