Posts Tagged 'adaptation'

Adaptive potential of coastal invertebrates to environmental stressors and climate change

Climate change presents multiple stressors that are impacting marine life. As carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase in the atmosphere, atmospheric and sea water temperatures increase. In addition, more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, reducing pH and aragonite saturation state, resulting in ocean acidification (OA). Tightly coupled with OA is hypoxia due to deep stratified sea water becoming increasingly acidified and deoxygenated. The effects of these climate stressors have been studied in detail for only a few marine animal models. However, there are still many taxa and developmental stages in which we know very little about the impacts. Using genomic techniques, we examine the adaptive potential of three local marine invertebrates under three different climate stressors: marine disease exacerbated by thermal stress, OA, and combined stressors OA with hypoxia (OAH). As sea water temperatures rise, the prevalence of marine diseases increases, as seen in the sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS). The causation of SSWS is still widely debated; however reduced susceptibility to SSWS could aid in understanding disease progression. By examining genetic variation in Pisaster ochraceous collected during the SSWS outbreak, we observed weak separation between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. OA has been widely studied in many marine organisms, including Crassostrea gigas. However, limited studies have parsed the effects of OA during settlement, with no studies assessing the functionality of settlement and how it is impacted by OA. We investigated the effects of OA on settlement and gene expression during the transition from larval to juvenile stages in Pacific oysters. While OA and hypoxia are common climate stressors examined, the combined effects have scarcely examined. Further, the impacts of OAH have been narrowly focused on a select few species, with many economically important organisms having no baseline information on how they will persist as OAH severity increases. To address these gaps in our knowledge, we measured genetic variation in metabolic rates during OA for the species Haliotis rufescens to assess their adaptive potential through heritability measurements. We discuss caveats and considerations when utilizing similar heritability estimate methods for other understudied organisms. Together, these studies will provide novel information on the biological responses and susceptibility of difference coastal species to stressors associated with global climate change. These experiments provide information on both the vulnerability of current populations and their genetic potential for adaptation to changing ocean conditions.

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The olfactory tract: basis for future evolution in response to rapidly changing ecological niches

Within the forebrain the olfactory sensory system is unique from other sensory systems both in the projections of the olfactory tract and the ongoing neurogenic potential, characteristics conserved across vertebrates. Olfaction plays a crucial role in behaviors such as mate choice, food selection, homing, escape from predators, among others. The olfactory forebrain is intimately associated with the limbic system, the region of the brain involved in learning, memory, and emotions through interactions with the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system. Previously thought to lack a limbic system, we now know that teleost fishes process emotions, have exceptional memories, and readily learn, behaviors that are often associated with olfactory cues. The association of neuromodulatory hormones, and more recently, the immune system, with odor cues underlies behaviors essential for maintenance and adaptation within natural ecological niches. Increasingly anthropogenic perturbations affecting ecosystems are impacting teleost fishes worldwide. Here we examine the role of the olfactory tract as the neural basis for the integration of environmental cues and resulting behaviors necessary for the regulation of biotic interactions that allow for future adaptation as the climate spins out of control.

“I should think we might fairly gauge the future of biological science, centuries ahead, by estimating the time it will take to reach a complete, comprehensive understanding of odor. It may not seem a profound enough problem to dominate all the life sciences, but it contains, piece by piece all the mysteries.”

—Lewis Thomas (1985).

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Effects of seawater acidification on echinoid adult stage: a review

The continuous release of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing the acidity of seawater worldwide, and the pH is predicted to be reduced by ~0.4 units by 2100. Ocean acidification (OA) is changing the carbonate chemistry, jeopardizing the life of marine organisms, and in particular calcifying organisms. Because of their calcareous skeleton and limited ability to regulate the acid–base balance, echinoids are among the organisms most threatened by OA. In this review, 50 articles assessing the effects of seawater acidification on the echinoid adult stage have been collected and summarized, in order to identify the most important aspects to consider for future experiments. Most of the endpoints considered (i.e., related to calcification, physiology, behaviour and reproduction) were altered, highlighting how various and subtle the effects of pH reduction can be. In general terms, more than 43% of the endpoints were modified by low pH compared with the control condition. However, animals exposed in long-term experiments or resident in CO2-vent systems showed acclimation capability. Moreover, the latitudinal range of animals’ distribution might explain some of the differences found among species. Therefore, future experiments should consider local variability, long-term exposure and multigenerational approaches to better assess OA effects on echinoids.

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Loss of transcriptional plasticity but sustained adaptive capacity after adaptation to global change conditions in a marine copepod

Adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity will fuel resilience in the geologically unprecedented warming and acidification of the earth’s oceans, however, we have much to learn about the interactions and costs of these mechanisms of resilience. Here, using 20 generations of experimental evolution followed by three generations of reciprocal transplants, we investigated the relationship between adaptation and plasticity in the marine copepod, Acartia tonsa, in future global change conditions (high temperature and high CO2). We found parallel adaptation to global change conditions in genes related to stress response, gene expression regulation, actin regulation, developmental processes, and energy production. However, reciprocal transplantation showed that adaptation resulted in a loss of transcriptional plasticity, reduced fecundity, and reduced population growth when global change-adapted animals were returned to ambient conditions or reared in low food conditions. However, after three successive transplant generations, global change-adapted animals were able to match the ambient-adaptive transcriptional profile. Concurrent changes in allele frequencies and erosion of nucleotide diversity suggest that this recovery occurred via adaptation back to ancestral conditions. These results demonstrate that while plasticity facilitated initial survival in global change conditions, it eroded after 20 generations as populations adapted, limiting resilience to new stressors and previously benign environments.

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Physiological acclimatization in Hawaiian corals following a 22-month shift in baseline seawater temperature and pH

Climate change poses a major threat to coral reefs. We conducted an outdoor 22-month experiment to investigate if coral could not just survive, but also physiologically cope, with chronic ocean warming and acidification conditions expected later this century under the Paris Climate Agreement. We recorded survivorship and measured eleven phenotypic traits to evaluate the holobiont responses of Hawaiian coral: color, Symbiodiniaceae density, calcification, photosynthesis, respiration, total organic carbon flux, carbon budget, biomass, lipids, protein, and maximum Artemia capture rate. Survivorship was lowest in Montipora capitata and only some survivors were able to meet metabolic demand and physiologically cope with future ocean conditions. Most M. capitata survivors bleached through loss of chlorophyll pigments and simultaneously experienced increased respiration rates and negative carbon budgets due to a 236% increase in total organic carbon losses under combined future ocean conditions. Porites compressa and Porites lobata had the highest survivorship and coped well under future ocean conditions with positive calcification and increased biomass, maintenance of lipids, and the capacity to exceed their metabolic demand through photosynthesis and heterotrophy. Thus, our findings show that significant biological diversity within resilient corals like Porites, and some genotypes of sensitive species, will persist this century provided atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are controlled. Since Porites corals are ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans and often major reef builders, the persistence of this resilient genus provides hope for future reef ecosystem function globally.

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Rapid evolution fuels transcriptional plasticity to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) is postulated to affect the physiology, behavior, and life-history of marine species, but potential for acclimation or adaptation to elevated pCO2 in wild populations remains largely untested. We measured brain transcriptomes of six coral reef fish species at a natural volcanic CO2 seep and an adjacent control reef in Papua New Guinea. We show that elevated pCO2 induced common molecular responses related to circadian rhythm and immune system but different magnitudes of molecular response across the six species. Notably, elevated transcriptional plasticity was associated with core circadian genes affecting the regulation of intracellular pH and neural activity in Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Gene expression patterns were reversible in this species as evidenced upon reduction of CO2 following a natural storm-event. Compared with other species, Acpolyacanthus has a more rapid evolutionary rate and more positively selected genes in key functions under the influence of elevated CO2, thus fueling increased transcriptional plasticity. Our study reveals the basis to variable gene expression changes across species, with some species possessing evolved molecular toolkits to cope with future OA.

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Impacts of ocean warming and acidification on calcifying coral reef taxa: mechanisms responsible and adaptive capacity

Ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) are two of the greatest global threats to the persistence of coral reefs. Calcifying reef taxa such as corals and coralline algae provide the essential substrate and habitat in tropical reefs but are at particular risk due to their susceptibility to both OW and OA. OW poses the greater threat to future reef growth and function, via its capacity to destabilise the productivity of both taxa, and to cause mass bleaching events and mortality of corals. Marine heatwaves are projected to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration over the coming decades, raising the question of whether coral reefs will be able to persist as functioning ecosystems and in what form. OA should not be overlooked, as its negative impacts on the calcification of reef-building corals and coralline algae will have consequences for global reef accretion. Given that OA can have negative impacts on the reproduction and early life stages of both coralline algae and corals, the interdependence of these taxa may result in negative feedbacks for reef replenishment. However, there is little evidence that OA causes coral bleaching or exacerbates the effects of OW on coral bleaching. Instead, there is some evidence that OA alters the photo-physiology of both taxa. Tropical coralline algal possess shorter generation times than corals, which could enable more rapid evolutionary responses. Future reefs will be dominated by taxa with shorter generation times and high plasticity, or those individuals inherently resistant and resilient to both marine heatwaves and OA.

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Shark teeth can resist ocean acidification

Ocean acidification can cause dissolution of calcium carbonate minerals in biological structures of many marine organisms, which can be exacerbated by warming. However, it is still unclear whether this also affects organisms that have body parts made of calcium phosphate minerals (e.g. shark teeth), which may also be impacted by the ‘corrosive’ effect of acidified seawater. Thus, we examined the effect of ocean acidification and warming on the mechanical properties of shark teeth (Port Jackson shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni), and assessed whether their mineralogical properties can be modified in response to predicted near-future seawater pH (–0.3 units) and temperature (+3°C) changes. We found that warming resulted in the production of more brittle teeth (higher elastic modulus and lower mechanical resilience) that were more vulnerable to physical damage. Yet, when combined with ocean acidification, the durability of teeth increased (i.e. less prone to physical damage due to the production of more elastic teeth) so that they did not differ from those raised under ambient conditions. The teeth were chiefly made of fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F), with increased fluoride content under ocean acidification that was associated with increased crystallinity. The increased precipitation of this highly insoluble mineral under ocean acidification suggests that the sharks could modulate and enhance biomineralization to produce teeth which are more resistant to corrosion. This adaptive mineralogical adjustment could allow some shark species to maintain durability and functionality of their teeth, which underpins a fundamental component of predation and sustenance of the trophic dynamics of future oceans.

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Experimental evolution reveals the synergistic genomic mechanisms of adaptation to ocean warming and acidification in a marine copepod

Metazoan adaptation to global change will rely on selection of standing genetic variation. Determining the extent to which this variation exists in natural populations, particularly for responses to simultaneous stressors, is therefore essential to make accurate predictions for persistence in future conditions. Here, we identify the genetic variation enabling the copepod Acartia tonsa to adapt to experimental ocean warming, acidification, and combined ocean warming and acidification (OWA) conditions over 25 generations. Replicate populations showed a strong and consistent polygenic response to each condition, targeting an array of adaptive mechanisms including cellular homeostasis, development, and stress response. We used a genome-wide covariance approach to partition the genomic changes into selection, drift, and lab adaptation and found that the majority of allele frequency change in warming (56%) and OWA (63%) was driven by selection but acidification was dominated by drift (66%). OWA and warming shared 37% of their response to selection but OWA and acidification shared just 1%. Accounting for lab adaptation was essential for not inflating a shared response to selection between all treatments. Finally, the mechanisms of adaptation in the multiple-stressor OWA conditions were not an additive product of warming and acidification, but rather a synergistic response where 47% of the allelic responses to selection were unique. These results are among the first to disentangle how the genomic targets of selection differ between single and multiple stressors and to demonstrate the complexity that non-additive multiple stressors will contribute to attempts to predict adaptive responses to complex environments.

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Climate change alters shellfish reef communities: a temperate mesocosm experiment


  • Climate change will cause significant changes to rocky shore diversity.
  • Outdoor mesocosms were used to test predictions of warming and ocean acidification.
  • Elevated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reduced the growth of the native mussels.
  • Warming and carbon dioxide influenced the species that colonised the mussels.


Climate change is expected to cause significant changes to rocky shore diversity. This study used outdoor mesocosms to test the predictions that warming and ocean acidification will alter the responses of native Trichomya hirsuta and introduced Mytilus galloprovincialis mussels, and their associated communities of infauna. Experiments consisted of orthogonal combinations of temperature (ambient 22 °C or elevated 25 °C), pCO2 (ambient 400 μatm or elevated 1000 μatm), mussel species (T. hirsuta or M. galloprovincialis), and mussel configuration (native, introduced, or both), with n = 3 replicates. Elevated pCO2 reduced the growth of T. hirsuta but not that of M. galloprovincialis, and warming and pCO2 influenced the infauna that colonised both species of mussels. There was a reduction in infaunal molluscs and an increase in polychaetes; there was, however, no effect on crustaceans. Results from this study suggest that climate-driven changes from one mussel species to another can significantly influence infaunal communities.

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Physiological response of shellfish native to the North American Pacific Coast to ocean acidification and warming

Following observations of shifting ocean conditions an enormous scientific effort has explored the response of marine species to ocean acidification and warming. Empirical data has established that many species are vulnerable to ocean conditions projected for this century, particularly calcifying invertebrates, affecting a range of physiological processes over the lifetime of an organism. However, these studies also indicate that biological responses are quite variable, related to an organism’s genetic and environmental ancestries. Some species are more tolerant to the effects of acidification than others, as are some populations within species. There is also evidence that transgenerational carryover effects may alleviate some negative effects by buffering future generations against challenging conditions. The future of marine ecosystems and food systems hinges in part upon our ability to identify, conserve, and invest in individuals that can tolerate shifting ocean conditions, and to understand the role of transgenerational carryover effects in shaping future populations.

The aim of this dissertation work is to examine the physiological and molecular responses of two invertebrate species native to the North American Pacific Coast, the Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) and Pacific geoduck (Panopea generosa), to ocean acidification and warming. Both species inhabit dynamic, heterogeneous estuarine environments that are influenced by coastal upwelling, and through adaptation and/or carryover effects may be relatively tolerant of ocean change. By testing multiple species, populations, life stages, and generations I provide evidence that these Pacific Coast natives are uniquely equipped for the effects of ocean acidification, and that warming will be a more impactful, but not necessarily negative, driver of physiological changes.

Chapter 1 characterizes the proteomes of Pacific geoduck in varying natural environments and habitat-specific pH conditions. Juvenile geoduck were deployed in eelgrass and adjacent unvegetated habitats for 30 days while pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity were monitored. Across the four deployment locations pH was lower in unvegetated habitats compared to eelgrass habitats. While geoduck growth and proteomes were not affected by pH, they were sensitive to temperature and dissolved oxygen, but neither affected survival rates. Chapter 1 demonstrates that geoduck may be resilient to acidification in a natural setting and temperature may have a greater influence on geoduck physiology.

Chapter 2 examines the intra- and inter-generational carryover effects of ocean warming in the Olympia oyster. In many species reproductive and metabolic processes are tightly linked to the seasonal change from winter to spring, yet we know little about how these processes will shift as winters become milder. Therefore, in Chapter 2 I exposed adult Olympia oysters to elevated winter temperature and monitored effects to reproduction and offspring viability in spring. Parental exposure to warming did not affect overall larval production or survival, however it did increase the size and development of gametes, and the size of larval offspring. In the wild more developed gametes and larger larvae following milder winters could greatly impact recruitment patterns, possibly benefitting O. lurida populations. The results of Chapter 2 suggest that O. lurida is at minimum resilient to winter warming, and at best could benefit from it due to improved larval viability.

Chapter 3 continues exploring carryover effects in the Olympia oyster by examining the effects of combined ocean warming and acidification across three distinct O. lurida populations. Larval production was higher and began sooner following winter warming, was reduced by acidification, but was unaffected by combined stressors. Offspring of parents exposed to acidification, which were reared in common conditions for one year, had higher survival rates when tested in the field. Results of Chapter 3 indicate that altered recruitment patterns may follow warmer winters due to a prolonged reproductive season and/or increased production, but these effects may be masked by coincidental high pCO2. Furthermore, Olympia oysters may be more resilient in certain environments when progenitors are pre-conditioned in stressful conditions. This carryover effect demonstrates that parental conditions can have substantial ecologically relevant impacts that should be considered when predicting impacts of environmental change.

Chapter 4 further describes three O. lurida populations’ responses to acidification by examining growth, reproductive development, gene expression, and signals in offspring. Responses reveal energetic trade-offs that range from a robust transcriptional response in one population (Dabob Bay) without impacts to growth or reproduction, to no detectable transcriptional response but negative impacts to growth and reproduction in another (Oyster Bay). While exposure to acidification did not affect gene expression in the next generation’s larval stage, it did increase larval size in the Oyster Bay, which could partially alleviate negative effects of acidification in the wild in that population. Given the distinct transcriptional response of the Dabob Bay population to acidification and its high survival rates in previous studies, we identified genes unique to that population, which provide insight into the mechanisms behind a stress-tolerant oyster population. Chapter 4 provides the first description of molecular processes responsive to acidification in an Ostrea spp, and demonstrates that species inhabiting heterogeneous environments, even on small geographic scales, offer natural reservoirs of biodiversity.

This dissertation work reveals the resilience of bivalves native to the Northeast Pacific Ocean to ocean change, and suggests that that Olympia oyster and Pacific geoduck are good candidates for aquaculture investment and conservation efforts. Furthermore, population-specific responses and carryover effects observed in Olympia oyster suggests that both fine-scale genetic structure and parental priming can influence how an organism responds to ocean change, and should be considered by conservationists and managers, and in future studies.

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Molecular basis of ocean acidification sensitivity and adaptation in Mytilus galloprovincialis

One challenge in global change biology is to identify the mechanisms underpinning physiological sensitivities to environmental change and to predict their potential to adapt to future conditions. Using ocean acidification as the representative stressor, molecular pathways associated with abnormal larval development of a globally distributed marine mussel are identified. The targeted developmental stage was the trochophore stage, which is, for a few hours, pH sensitive and is the main driver of developmental success. RNA sequencing and in situ RNA hybridization were used to identify processes associated with abnormal development, and DNA sequencing was used to identify which processes evolve when larvae are exposed to low pH for the full duration of their larval stage. Trochophores exposed to low pH exhibited 43 differentially expressed genes. Thirteen genes, none of which have previously been identified in mussel trochophores, including three unknown genes, were expressed in the shell field. Gene annotation and in situ hybridization point to two core processes associated with the response to low pH: development of the trochophore shell field and the cellular stress response. Encompassing both of these processes, five genes demonstrated changes in allele frequency that are indicative of rapid adaptation. Thus, genes underpinning the most pH-sensitive developmental processes also exhibit scope to adapt via genetic variation currently maintained in the mussel population. These results provide evidence that protecting existing genetic diversity is a critical management action to maximize the potential for rapid adaptation under a changing environment.

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Heritable variation and lack of tradeoffs suggest adaptive capacity in Acropora cervicornis despite negative synergism under climate change scenarios

Knowledge of multi-stressor interactions and the potential for tradeoffs among tolerance traits is essential for developing intervention strategies for the conservation and restoration of reef ecosystems in a changing climate. Thermal extremes and acidification are two major co-occurring stresses predicted to limit the recovery of vital Caribbean reef-building corals. Here, we conducted an aquarium-based experiment to quantify the effects of increased water temperatures and pCO2 individually and in concert on 12 genotypes of the endangered branching coral Acropora cervicornis, currently being reared and outplanted for large-scale coral restoration. Quantification of 12 host, symbiont and holobiont traits throughout the two-month-long experiment showed several synergistic negative effects, where the combined stress treatment often caused a greater reduction in physiological function than the individual stressors alone. However, we found significant genetic variation for most traits and positive trait correlations among treatments indicating an apparent lack of tradeoffs, suggesting that adaptive evolution will not be constrained. Our results suggest that it may be possible to incorporate climate-resistant coral genotypes into restoration and selective breeding programmes, potentially accelerating adaptation.

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Lipid remodeling reveals the adaptations of a marine diatom to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is recognized as a major anthropogenic perturbation of the modern ocean. While extensive studies have been carried out to explore the short-term physiological responses of phytoplankton to ocean acidification, little is known about their lipidomic responses after a long-term ocean acidification adaptation. Here we perform the lipidomic analysis of a marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum following long-term (∼400 days) selection to ocean acidification conditions. We identified a total of 476 lipid metabolites in long-term high CO2 (i.e., ocean acidification condition) and low CO2 (i.e., ambient condition) selected P. tricornutum cells. Our results further show that long-term high CO2 selection triggered substantial changes in lipid metabolites by down- and up-regulating 33 and 42 lipid metabolites. While monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) was significantly down-regulated in the long-term high CO2 selected conditions, the majority (∼80%) of phosphatidylglycerol (PG) was up-regulated. The tightly coupled regulations (positively or negatively correlated) of significantly regulated lipid metabolites suggest that the lipid remodeling is an organismal adaptation strategy of marine diatoms to ongoing ocean acidification. Since the composition and content of lipids are crucial for marine food quality, and these changes can be transferred to high trophic levels, our results highlight the importance of determining the long-term adaptation of lipids in marine producers in predicting the ecological consequences of climate change.

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Two temperate corals are tolerant to low pH regardless of previous exposure to natural CO2 vents

Ocean acidification is perceived to be a major threat for many calcifying organisms, including scleractinian corals. Here we investigate (1) whether past exposure to low pH environments associated with CO2 vents could increase corals tolerance to low pH and (2) whether zooxanthellate corals are more tolerant to low pH than azooxanthellate corals. To test these hypotheses, two Mediterranean colonial corals Cladocora caespitosa (zooxanthellate) and Astroides calycularis (azooxanthellate) were collected from CO2 vents and reference sites and incubated in the laboratory under present-day (pH on the total scale, pHT 8.07) and low pH conditions (pHT 7.70). Rates of net calcification, dark respiration and photosynthesis were monitored during a six-month experiment. Monthly net calcification was assessed every 27 to 35 d using the buoyant weight technique, whereas light and dark net calcification was estimated using the alkalinity anomaly technique during 1 h incubations. Neither species showed any change in net calcification rates, respiration, and photosynthesis regardless of their environmental history, pH treatment and trophic strategy. Our results indicate that C. caespitosa and A. calycularis could tolerate future ocean acidification conditions for at least 6 months. These results will aid in predicting species’ future responses to ocean acidification, and thus improve the management and conservation of Mediterranean corals.

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Integrated assessment of ocean acidification risks to pteropods in the Northern high latitudes: regional comparison of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity

Exposure to the impact of ocean acidification (OA) is increasing in high-latitudinal productive habitats. Pelagic calcifying snails (pteropods), a significant component of the diet of economically important fish, are found in high abundance in these regions. Pteropods have thin shells that readily dissolve at low aragonite saturation state (Ωar), making them susceptible to OA. Here, we conducted a first integrated risk assessment for pteropods in the Eastern Pacific subpolar gyre, the Gulf of Alaska (GoA), Bering Sea, and Amundsen Gulf. We determined the risk for pteropod populations by integrating measures of OA exposure, biological sensitivity, and resilience. Exposure was based on physical-chemical hydrographic observations and regional biogeochemical model outputs, delineating seasonal and decadal changes in carbonate chemistry conditions. Biological sensitivity was based on pteropod morphometrics and shell-building processes, including shell dissolution, density and thickness. Resilience and adaptive capacity were based on species diversity and spatial connectivity, derived from the particle tracking modeling. Extensive shell dissolution was found in the central and western part of the subpolar gyre, parts of the Bering Sea, and Amundsen Gulf. We identified two distinct morphotypes: L. helicina helicina and L. helicina pacifica, with high-spired and flatter shells, respectively. Despite the presence of different morphotypes, genetic analyses based on mitochondrial haplotypes identified a single species, without differentiation between the morphological forms, coinciding with evidence of widespread spatial connectivity. We found that shell morphometric characteristics depends on omega saturation state (Ωar); under Ωar decline, pteropods build flatter and thicker shells, which is indicative of a certain level of phenotypic plasticity. An integrated risk evaluation based on multiple approaches assumes a high risk for pteropod population persistence with intensification of OA in the high latitude eastern North Pacific because of their known vulnerability, along with limited evidence of species diversity despite their connectivity and our current lack of sufficient knowledge of their adaptive capacity. Such a comprehensive understanding would permit improved prediction of ecosystem change relevant to effective fisheries resource management, as well as a more robust foundation for monitoring ecosystem health and investigating OA impacts in high-latitudinal habitats.

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Individual and interactive effects of ocean warming and acidification on adult Favites colemani

Tropical coral reefs are threatened by local-scale stressors that are exacerbated by global ocean warming and acidification from the post-industrial increase of atmospheric CO2 levels. Despite their observed decline in the past four decades, little is known on how Philippine coral reefs will respond to ocean warming and acidification. This study explored individual and synergistic effects of present-day (pH 8.0, 28°C) and near-future (pH 7.7, 32°C) scenarios of ocean temperature and pH on the adult Favites colemani, a common massive reef-building coral in Bolinao-Anda, Philippines. Changes in seawater temperature drive the physiological responses of F. colemani, whereas changes in pH create an additive effect on survival, growth, and photosynthetic efficiency. Under near-future scenarios, F. colemani showed sustained photosynthetic competency despite the decline in growth rate and zooxanthellae density. F. colemani exhibited specificity with the Cladocopium clade C3u. This coral experienced lower growth rates but survived projected near-future ocean warming and acidification scenarios. Its pH-thermal stress threshold is possibly a consequence of acclimation and adaptation to local environmental conditions and past bleaching events. This research highlights the importance of examining the susceptibility and resilience of Philippine corals to climate-driven stressors for future conservation and restoration efforts in the changing ocean.

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Acute acidification stress weakens the head kidney immune function of juvenile Lates calcarifer


  • A comprehensive analysis of L. calcarifer head kidney acute acidification response.
  • Acute adaptation strategies to different acidification levels were different.
  • Acute acidification stress had the effect of weakening immune function.


Acidized water environment can impact many physiological processes of aquatic animals. The response of the head kidney to acidification, especially the immune response, is of great significance to health. This study analyzed the histological and transcriptional changes under different acidification levels (C group, pH 8.1; P group, pH 7.4; E group, pH 3.5) in the short term (12 h, 36 h and 60 h) in the head kidney of juvenile L. calcarifer. The results showed that the acidification of the water environment caused tissue damage to the head kidney of L. calcarifer, and the damage appeared earlier and was stronger in the extreme pH group. The transcriptional response of L. calcarifer head kidney increased with the increase of acidification level. The two treatments transcriptional responses showed different trends in terms of time. After KEGG function enrichment, with the increase of stimulation time, the proportion of down-regulated pathways was increasing, and the types of pathway enrichment at different acidification levels were quite different at the initial stage. At 12 h, the first category in the P group with the most significant number of pathways was ‘Metabolism’, and the first category in the E group with the largest number of pathways was ‘Human Diseases’. At 60 h, the enrichment pathways of the two groups were highly overlapping in immune-related pathways, which contained 26 common DEGs. They had a dominant expression pattern. In the P group, the expression level decreased with time. In the E group, the down-regulation degree of expression level at 12 h reached the level of the P group at 60 h, and the expression level remained low until 60 h. Through the correlation network, interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7), Tripartite motif containing-21 (TRIM21), Signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) and Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) were found to have the most correlation with other genes. In this study, juvenile L. calcarifer showed different coping strategies to different levels of acute acidification stress, but all of them resulted in the extensive weakening of head kidney immune function.

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The marine gastropod Crepidula fornicata remains resilient to ocean acidification across two life history stages

Rising atmospheric CO2 reduces seawater pH causing ocean acidification (OA). Understanding how resilient marine organisms respond to OA may help predict how community dynamics will shift as CO2 continues rising. The common slipper shell snail Crepidula fornicata is a marine gastropod native to eastern North America that has been a successful invader along the western European coastline and elsewhere. It has also been previously shown to be resilient to global change stressors. To examine the mechanisms underlying C. fornicata’s resilience to OA, we conducted two controlled laboratory experiments. First, we examined several phenotypes and genome-wide gene expression of C. fornicata in response to pH treatments (7.5, 7.6, and 8.0) throughout the larval stage and then tested how conditions experienced as larvae influenced juvenile stages (i.e., carry-over effects). Second, we examined genome-wide gene expression patterns of C. fornicata larvae in response to acute (4, 10, 24, and 48 h) pH treatment (7.5 and 8.0). Both C. fornicata larvae and juveniles exhibited resilience to OA and their gene expression responses highlight the role of transcriptome plasticity in this resilience. Larvae did not exhibit reduced growth under OA until they were at least 8 days old. These phenotypic effects were preceded by broad transcriptomic changes, which likely served as an acclimation mechanism for combating reduced pH conditions frequently experienced in littoral zones. Larvae reared in reduced pH conditions also took longer to become competent to metamorphose. In addition, while juvenile sizes at metamorphosis reflected larval rearing pH conditions, no carry-over effects on juvenile growth rates were observed. Transcriptomic analyses suggest increased metabolism under OA, which may indicate compensation in reduced pH environments. Transcriptomic analyses through time suggest that these energetic burdens experienced under OA eventually dissipate, allowing C. fornicata to reduce metabolic demands and acclimate to reduced pH. Carry-over effects from larval OA conditions were observed in juveniles; however, these effects were larger for more severe OA conditions and larvae reared in those conditions also demonstrated less transcriptome elasticity. This study highlights the importance of assessing the effects of OA across life history stages and demonstrates how transcriptomic plasticity may allow highly resilient organisms, like C. fornicata, to acclimate to reduced pH environments.

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Acidification can directly affect olfaction in marine organisms

In the past decade, many studies have investigated the effects of low pH/high CO2 as a proxy for ocean acidification on olfactory-mediated behaviours of marine organisms. The effects of ocean acidification on the behaviour of fish vary from very large to none at all, and most of the maladaptive behaviours observed have been attributed to changes in acid–base regulation, leading to changes in ion distribution over neural membranes, and consequently affecting the functioning of gamma-aminobutyric acid-mediated (GABAergic) neurotransmission. Here, we highlight a possible additional mechanism by which ocean acidification might directly affect olfaction in marine fish and invertebrates. We propose that a decrease in pH can directly affect the protonation, and thereby, 3D conformation and charge distribution of odorants and/or their receptors in the olfactory organs of aquatic animals. This can sometimes enhance signalling, but most of the time the affinity of odorants for their receptors is reduced in high CO2/low pH; therefore, the activity of olfactory receptor neurons decreases as measured using electrophysiology. The reduced signal reception would translate into reduced activation of the olfactory bulb neurons, which are responsible for processing olfactory information in the brain. Over longer exposures of days to weeks, changes in gene expression in the olfactory receptors and olfactory bulb neurons cause these neurons to become less active, exacerbating the problem. A change in olfactory system functioning leads to inappropriate behavioural responses to odorants. We discuss gaps in the literature and suggest some changes to experimental design in order to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms and their effects on the associated behaviours to resolve some current controversy in the field regarding the extent of the effects of ocean acidification on marine fish.

Continue reading ‘Acidification can directly affect olfaction in marine organisms’

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