Posts Tagged 'adaptation'

Standing genetic variation fuels rapid adaptation to ocean acidification

Global climate change has intensified the need to assess the capacity for natural populations to adapt to abrupt shifts in the environment. Reductions in seawater pH constitute a conspicuous global change stressor that is affecting marine ecosystems globally. Here, we quantify the phenotypic and genetic modifications associated with rapid adaptation to reduced seawater pH in the Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis. We reared a genetically diverse larval population in two pH treatments (pHT 8.1 and 7.4) and tracked changes in the shell-size distribution and genetic variation through settlement. Additionally, we identified differences in the signatures of selection on shell growth in each pH environment. Both phenotypic and genetic data show that standing variation can facilitate adaptation to declines in seawater pH. This work provides insight into the processes underpinning rapid evolution, and demonstrates the importance of maintaining variation within natural populations to bolster species’ adaptive capacity as global change progresses.

Continue reading ‘Standing genetic variation fuels rapid adaptation to ocean acidification’

Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification

Commercial shellfish aquaculture is vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification driven by increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption by the ocean as well as to coastal acidification driven by land run off and rising sea level. These drivers of environmental acidification have deleterious effects on biomineralization. We investigated shell biomineralization of selectively bred and wild‐type families of the Sydney rock oyster Saccostrea glomerata in a study of oysters being farmed in estuaries at aquaculture leases differing in environmental acidification. The contrasting estuarine pH regimes enabled us to determine the mechanisms of shell growth and the vulnerability of this species to contemporary environmental acidification. Determination of the source of carbon, the mechanism of carbon uptake and use of carbon in biomineral formation are key to understanding the vulnerability of shellfish aquaculture to contemporary and future environmental acidification. We, therefore, characterized the crystallography and carbon uptake in the shells of S. glomerata, resident in habitats subjected to coastal acidification, using high‐resolution electron backscatter diffraction and carbon isotope analyses (as δ13C). We show that oyster families selectively bred for fast growth and families selected for disease resistance can alter their mechanisms of calcite crystal biomineralization, promoting resilience to acidification. The responses of S. glomerata to acidification in their estuarine habitat provide key insights into mechanisms of mollusc shell growth under future climate change conditions. Importantly, we show that selective breeding in oysters is likely to be an important global mitigation strategy for sustainable shellfish aquaculture to withstand future climate‐driven change to habitat acidification.

Continue reading ‘Selectively bred oysters can alter their biomineralization pathways, promoting resilience to environmental acidification’

Present and future adaptation of marine species assemblages: DNA-based insights into climate change from studies of physiology, genomics, and evolution

Marine species live in a dynamic physical and biological environment that demands frequent physiological adjustment and can result in strong natural selection or shifts in species ranges. We illustrate the patterns and processes of adaptation to environmental change with genetic-based examples that range from a focus on single proteins to whole genomes to whole communities. This work shows how single amino acid changes adapt proteins to function at different temperatures. It shows how acidification impacts expression of proteins in energy pathways in adults and exerts natural selection on many genes in larvae. Whole genome surveys along coastlines are now possible, and they reveal unexpected patterns of genetic differentiation even in highly dispersive species. Genetic surveys of over 70 species along the North American west coast show high levels of genetic diversity and genetic structure clustered at headlands and capes known to mark species range boundaries. Finally, new surveys of DNA variation in whole communities show promise for rapid monitoring that can augment and complement traditional dive surveys. Overall, dynamics in the physical environment have a strong effect on organism physiology, which results in diverse patterns of population growth and persistence, as well as of species range and evolutionary capacity. The high level of adaptive genetic variation shown here suggests an ability for marine populations to adapt in the face of climate change, but many questions remain about how fast, complete, and effective this evolution will be.

Continue reading ‘Present and future adaptation of marine species assemblages: DNA-based insights into climate change from studies of physiology, genomics, and evolution’

Rare genetic variation and balanced polymorphisms are important for survival in global change conditions

Standing genetic variation is important for population persistence in extreme environmental conditions. While some species may have the capacity to adapt to predicted average future global change conditions, the ability to survive extreme events is largely unknown. We used single-generation selection experiments on hundreds of thousands of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus sea urchin larvae generated from wild-caught adults to identify adaptive genetic variation responsive to moderate (pH 8.0) and extreme (pH 7.5) low-pH conditions. Sequencing genomic DNA from pools of larvae, we identified consistent changes in allele frequencies across replicate cultures for each pH condition and observed increased linkage disequilibrium around selected loci, revealing selection on recombined standing genetic variation. We found that loci responding uniquely to either selection regime were at low starting allele frequencies while variants that responded to both pH conditions (11.6% of selected variants) started at high frequencies. Loci under selection performed functions related to energetics, pH tolerance, cell growth and actin/cytoskeleton dynamics. These results highlight that persistence in future conditions will require two classes of genetic variation: common, pH-responsive variants maintained by balancing selection in a heterogeneous environment, and rare variants, particularly for extreme conditions, that must be maintained by large population sizes.

Continue reading ‘Rare genetic variation and balanced polymorphisms are important for survival in global change conditions’

pH variability exacerbates effects of ocean acidification on a Caribbean crustose coralline alga

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are among the most sensitive marine taxa to the pH changes predicted with ocean acidification (OA). However, many CCA exist in habitats where diel cycles in pH can surpass near-future OA projections. The prevailing theory that natural variability increases the tolerance of calcifiers to OA has not been widely tested with tropical CCA. Here, we assess the response of the reef-building species Lithophyllum congestum to stable and variable pH treatments, including an ambient control (amb/stable). The amb/variable treatment simulated an ambient diel cycle in pH (7.65–7.95), OA/stable simulated constant low pH reflecting worst-case year 2100 predictions (7.7), and OA/variable combined diel cycling with lower mean pH (7.45–7.75). We monitored the effects of pH on total calcification rate and photophysiology (maximum quantum yield) over 16 weeks. To assess the potential for acclimatization, we also quantified calcification rates during the first (0–8 weeks), and second (8–16 weeks) halves of the experiment. Calcification rates were lower in all pH treatments relative to ambient controls and photophysiology was unaffected. At the end of the 16-week experiment, total calcification rates were similarly low in the amb/variable and OA/stable treatment (27–29%), whereas rates declined by double in the OA/variable treatment (60%). When comparing the first and second halves of the experiment, there was no acclimatization in stable treatments as calcification rates remained unchanged in both the amb/stable and OA/stable treatments. In contrast, calcification rates deteriorated between periods in the variable treatments: from a 16–47% reduction in the amb/variable treatment to a 49–79% reduction in the OA/variable treatment, relative to controls. Our findings provide compelling evidence that pH variability can heighten CCA sensitivity to reductions in pH. Moreover, the decline in calcification rate over time directly contrasts prevailing theory that variability inherently increases organismal tolerances to low pH, and suggests that mechanisms of tolerance may become limited with increasing time of exposure. The significant role of diel pH cycling in CCA responses to OA indicates that organisms in habitats with diel variability could respond more severely to rapid changes in ocean pH associated with OA than predicted by experiments conducted under static conditions.

Continue reading ‘pH variability exacerbates effects of ocean acidification on a Caribbean crustose coralline alga’

Transgenerational exposure to ocean acidification induces biochemical distress in a keystone amphipod species (Gammarus locusta)


  • A transgenerational ocean acidification exposure was performed in Gammarus locusta
  • Biomarkers of cellular damage, protein repair and oxidative stress were quantified
  • Within- and transgenerational oxidative damage occurred under high CO2
  • Oxidative stress in F0-proteome may impair offspring’ DNA efficiency repair system
  • Increased vulnerability of wild G. locusta populations under ocean acidification


Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are increasing at the fastest rate ever recorded, causing higher CO2 dissolution in the ocean, leading to a process known as ocean acidification (OA). Unless anthropogenic CO2 emissions are reduced, they are expected to reach ~900 ppm by the century’s end, resulting in a 0.13-0.42 drop in the seawater pH levels. Since the transgenerational effects of high CO2 in marine organisms are still poorly understood at lower levels of biological organization (namely at the biochemical level), here we reared a key ecological relevant marine amphipod, Gammarus locusta, under control and high CO2 conditions for two generations. We measured several stress-related biochemical endpoints: i) oxidative damage [lipid peroxidation (LPO) and DNA damage]; ii) protein repair and removal mechanisms [heat shock proteins (HSPs) and ubiquitin (Ub)]; as well as iii) antioxidant responses [superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione s-transferase (GST)] and total antioxidant capacity (TAC). The present results support the premise that exposure to high CO2 is expected to decrease survival rates in this species and cause within- and transgenerational oxidative damage. More specifically, the predicted upsurge of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species seemed to overwhelm the stimulated amphipod antioxidant machinery, which proved insufficient in circumventing protein damage within the parents. Additionally, negative effects of OA are potentially being inherited by the offspring, since the oxidative stress imposed in the parent’s proteome appears to be restricting DNA repair mechanisms efficiency within the offspring’s. Thus, we argue that a transgenerational exposure of G. locusta could further increase vulnerability to OA and may endanger the fitness and sustainability of natural populations.

Continue reading ‘Transgenerational exposure to ocean acidification induces biochemical distress in a keystone amphipod species (Gammarus locusta)’

Effects of ocean acidification on the transcriptome of larval Atlantic cod and impacts of parental acclimation

Ocean acidification, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, is impacting many marine organisms. This dissertation investigated the effects of direct exposure and parental acclimation to simulated ocean acidification on the larval stages of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua, L.). For this, ocean acidification levels predicted for the year 2100 were applied on cod eggs from hatch to 36 days post hatch in in vivo laboratory experiments. The direct exposure experiment clearly showed that Atlantic cod larvae were severely affected by simulated ocean acidification on a phenotypic level (chapter 1). Changes in growth, bone and gill development as well as increased frequency of organ damages were observed under predicted ocean acidification levels compared to controls. Then, the underlying molecular phenotype was assessed, using whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq), to couple transcriptomic mechanisms to the observed phenotypes (chapter 2). Transcriptome analysis revealed 1413 differentially expressed genes in late larval stages, corresponding to the observed changes in growth and developmental patterns, leading to the conclusion that these changes represent an accelerated development under ocean acidification. Surprisingly, only few genes (3 and 16, respectively) were differentially expressed in the early larval stages. An experiment set to address the effects of long-term parental acclimation (5 month) was performed to assess whether or not this kind of acclimation can mediate the identified detrimental direct effects on the larvae (chapter 3). However, none of the previously observed phenotypes under ocean acidification were found in this experiment, making it impossible to draw any conclusion on the effectiveness of parental acclimation on larval susceptibility to simulated ocean acidification. A concluding meta-analysis between experiments shows that the larvae of Atlantic Cod are to be considered vulnerable to simulated ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on the transcriptome of larval Atlantic cod and impacts of parental acclimation’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book