Direct, carryover, and maternal effects of ocean acidification on snow crab embryos and larvae

Ocean acidification, a decrease in ocean pH with increasing anthropogenic CO2 concentrations, is expected to affect many marine animals. To examine the effects of decreased pH on snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio), a commercial species in Alaska, we reared ovigerous females in one of three treatments: Ambient pH (~8.1), pH 7.8, and pH 7.5, through two annual reproductive cycles. Morphometric changes during development and hatching success were measured for embryos both years and calcification was measured for the adult females at the end of the 2-year experiment. Embryos and larvae analyzed in year one were from oocytes developed, fertilized, and extruded in situ, whereas embryos and larvae in year two were from oocytes developed, fertilized, and extruded under acidified conditions in the laboratory. In both years, larvae were exposed to the same pH treatments in a fully crossed experimental design. Starvation-survival, morphology, condition, and calcium/magnesium content were assessed for larvae. Embryo morphology during development, hatching success, and fecundity were unaffected by pH during both years. Percent calcium in adult females’ carapaces did not differ among treatments at the end of the experiment. In the first year, starvation-survival of larvae reared at Ambient pH but hatched from embryos reared at reduced pH was lowered; however, the negative effect was eliminated when the larvae were reared at reduced pH. In the second year, there was no direct effect of either embryo or larval pH treatment, but larvae reared as embryos at reduced pH survived longer if reared at reduced pH. Treatment either did not affect other measured larval parameters, or effect sizes were small. The results from this two-year study suggest that snow crabs are well adapted to projected ocean pH levels within the next two centuries, although other life-history stages still need to be examined for sensitivity and potential interactive effects with increasing temperatures should be investigated.

Long W. C., Swiney K. M. & Foy R. J., 2023. Direct, carryover, and maternal effects of ocean acidification on snow crab embryos and larvae. PLoS ONE 18(10): e0276360. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0276360. Article.

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