Ocean acidification alters the acute stress response of a marine fish

The absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by oceans generates rapid changes in seawater carbonate system and pH, a process termed ocean acidification. Exposure to acidified water can impact the allostatic load of marine organism as the acclimation to suboptimal environments requires physiological adaptive responses that are energetically costly. As a consequence, fish facing ocean acidification may experience alterations of stress response and a compromised ability to cope to additional stress which may impact individuals’ life traits and ultimately their fitness. In this context, we carried out an integrative study investigating the impact of ocean acidification on the physiological and behavioral stress responses to an acute stress in juvenile European sea bass. Fish were long term (11 months) exposed to present day pH/CO 2 condition or acidified water as predicted by IPCC “as business as usual” (RCP8.5) scenario for 2100 and subjected to netting and confinement tests. Fish acclimated to RCP8.5 scenario showed slower post stress return to plasma basal concentrations of cortisol and glucose. We found no clear indication of regulation in the central and interrenal tissues of the expression levels of gluco- and mineralocorticoid receptors and corticoid releasing factor. At 120 minutes post stress, sea bass acclimated to acidified water had divergent neurotransmitters’ concentrations pattern in the hypothalamus (higher serotonin levels and lower GABA and dopamine levels) and a reduction in motor activity. Our experimental data indicate that ocean acidification alters the physiological response to acute stress in European sea bass via the neuroendocrine regulation of the corticotropic axis, a response associated to an alteration of the motor behavioral profile. Overall, this study suggests that behavioral and physiological adaptive response to climate changes related constraints may impact fish resilience to further stressful events.

Servili A., Lévêque E., Mouchel O., Devergne J., Lebigre C., Roussel S., Mazurais D. & Zambonino-Infante J.-L., in press. Ocean acidification alters the acute stress response of a marine fish. SSRN. Article.

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