Ocean acidification stunts molluscan growth at CO2 seeps

Graphical abstract


  • Responses of molluscan growth to ocean acidification at CO2 seeps were studied.
  • Mussels near CO2 seeps grew significantly slower than those outside the seeps.
  • Mussels near and outside CO2 seeps exhibited differences in tissue carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures.
  • Geochemical analysis indicated chemical shifts at the calcifying front in mussels near and outside CO2 seeps.


Ocean acidification can severely affect bivalve molluscs, especially their shell calcification. Assessing the fate of this vulnerable group in a rapidly acidifying ocean is therefore a pressing challenge. Volcanic CO2 seeps are natural analogues of future ocean conditions that offer unique insights into the scope of marine bivalves to cope with acidification. Here, we used a 2-month reciprocal transplantation of the coastal mussel Septifer bilocularis collected from reference and elevated pCO2 habitats to explore how they calcify and grow at CO2 seeps on the Pacific coast of Japan. We found significant decreases in condition index (an indication of tissue energy reserves) and shell growth of mussels living under elevated pCO2 conditions. These negative responses in their physiological performance under acidified conditions were closely associated with changes in their food sources (shown by changes to the soft tissue δ13C and δ15N ratios) and changes in their calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry (based on shell carbonate isotopic and elemental signatures). The reduced shell growth rate during the transplantation experiment was further supported by shell δ13C records along their incremental growth layers, as well as their smaller shell size despite being of comparable ontogenetic ages (5–7 years old, based on shell δ18O records). Taken together, these findings demonstrate how ocean acidification at CO2 seeps affects mussel growth and reveal that lowered shell growth helps them survive stressful conditions.

Zhao L., Harvey B. P., Higuchi T., Agostini S., Tanaka K., Murakami-Sugihara N., Morgan H., Baker P., Hall-Spencer J. M. & Shirai K., 2023. Ocean acidification stunts molluscan growth at CO2 seeps. Science of The Total Environment 873: 162293. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162293. Article.

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