Differential reaction norms to ocean acidification in two oyster species from contrasting habitats

Ocean acidification (OA), a consequence of the increase in anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, causes major changes in the chemistry of carbonates in the ocean with deleterious effects on calcifying organisms. The pH/pCO2 range to which species are exposed in nature is important to consider when interpreting the response of coastal organisms to OA. In this context, emerging approaches, which assess the reaction norms of organisms to a wide pH gradient, are improving our understanding of tolerance thresholds and acclimation potential to OA. In this study, we decipher the reaction norms of two oyster species living in contrasting habitats: the intertidal oyster Crassostrea gigas and the subtidal flat oyster Ostrea edulis, which are two economically and ecologically valuable species in temperate ecosystems. Six-month-old oysters of each species were exposed in common garden for 48 days to a pH gradient ranging from 7.7 to 6.4 (total scale). Both species are tolerant down to a pH of 6.6 with high plasticity in fitness-related traits such as survival and growth. However, oysters undergo remodelling of membrane fatty acids to cope with decreasing pH along with shell bleaching impairing shell integrity and consequently animal fitness. Finally, our work reveals species-specific physiological responses and highlights that intertidal C. gigas seems to have a better acclimation potential to rapid and extreme OA changes than O. edulis. Overall, our study provides important data about the phenotypic plasticity and its limits in two oyster species, which is essential for assessing the challenges posed to marine organisms by OA.

Caillon C., Pernet F., Lutier M. & Di Poi C., 2023. Differential reaction norms to ocean acidification in two oyster species from contrasting habitats. bioRxiv. Article.

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