Posts Tagged 'annelids'

The evolution of phenotypic plasticity under global change

Marine ecosystems are currently in a state of flux, with ocean warming and acidification occurring at unprecedented rates. Phenotypic plasticity underpins acclimatory responses by shifting the mean phenotype in a population, which may buffer the negative effects of global change. However, little is known about how phenotypic plasticity evolves across multiple generations. We tested this by reciprocally-transplanting the polychaete Ophryotrocha labronica between control and global change scenarios (ocean warming and acidification in isolation and combined) over five generations. By comparing the reaction norms of four life-history traits across generations, we show that juvenile developmental rate in the combined scenario was the only trait that changed its plastic response across generations when transplanted back to control conditions, and that adaptive plasticity was conserved in most traits, despite significant levels of selection and strong declines in individual fitness in the multi-generational exposure. We suggest the change in level of plasticity in the combined scenario is caused by differential allocation of energy between the mean and the plasticity of the trait along the multigenerational exposure. The ability to maintain within-generational levels of plasticity under global change scenarios has important eco-evolutionary and conservation implications, which are examined under the framework of assisted evolution programs.

Continue reading ‘The evolution of phenotypic plasticity under global change’

Extreme ocean acidification reduces the susceptibility of eastern oyster shells to a polydorid parasite

Ocean acidification poses a threat to marine organisms. While the physiological and behavioural effects of ocean acidification have received much attention, the effects of acidification on the susceptibility of farmed shellfish to parasitic infections are poorly understood. Here we describe the effects of moderate (pH 7.5) and extreme (pH 7.0) ocean acidification on the susceptibility of Crassostrea virginica shells to infection by a parasitic polydorid, Polydora websteri. Under laboratory conditions, shells were exposed to three pH treatments (7.0, 7.5 and 8.0) for 3- and 5-week periods. Treated shells were subsequently transferred to an oyster aquaculture site (which had recently reported an outbreak of P. websteri) for 50 days to test for effects of pH and exposure time on P. websteri recruitment to oyster shells. Results indicated that pH and exposure time did not affect the length, width or weight of the shells. Interestingly, P. websteri counts were significantly lower under extreme (pH 7.0; ~50% reduction), but not moderate (pH 7.5; ~20% reduction) acidification levels; exposure time had no effect. This study suggests that extreme levels – but not current and projected near-future levels – of acidification (∆pH ~1 unit) can reduce the susceptibility of eastern oyster shells to P. websteri infections.

Continue reading ‘Extreme ocean acidification reduces the susceptibility of eastern oyster shells to a polydorid parasite’

Target gene expression studies on Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis cfr massiliensis at the shallow CO2 vents off Ischia, Italy

Many studies predict negative effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms, potentially leading to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function. Research on species inhabiting naturally high pCO2 environments, such as volcanic CO2 vents, offers an opportunity to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in high pCO2 regulation. Here we investigate the relative expression of NADH dehydrogenase, sodium-hydrogen antiporter (NHE), carbonic anhydrase (CA) and paramyosin genes from two non-calcifying sibling Nereididae polychaetes species, Platynereis cfr massiliensis, collected in the shallow CO2 vents off Ischia (Italy; 40°43′52.0″N 13°57′46.2″E and 40°43′55.5″N 13°57′48.4″E), and P. dumerilii collected in an area nearby (40°43′34.51″N; 13°57′35.7″E). The origin of the worms was confirmed using restriction enzyme digest. NHE and paramyosin expressions were both significantly increased in P. dumerilii relative to the P. cfr massiliensis vent populations. Furthermore, a seven day laboratory transfer experiment to lower/higher pCO2 conditions was conducted to investigate the effects on the short term gene expression. The transfer experiment of the non-vent worms to high pCO2 conditions showed no significant effect on any of the genes analysed, however, two genes (NADH dehydrogenase and NHE) from worms of the vent population were significantly down-regulated under low pCO2. These findings will help to gain further insights into the cellular mechanisms affected by pCO2 changes in two polychaete species.

Continue reading ‘Target gene expression studies on Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis cfr massiliensis at the shallow CO2 vents off Ischia, Italy’

Effects of in situ CO2 enrichment on epibiont settlement on artificial substrata within a Posidonia oceanica meadow


  • Ocean acidification (OA) may cause community shifts by effecting early life stages.
  • pH was lowered in situ and maintained as an offset within a FOCE setup.
  • Settlement/colonization of molluscs and peracarid crustaceans were robust to OA.
  • Crustose coralline algae and calcifying polychaetes were vulnerable at early life.


Alterations to colonization or early post-settlement stages may cause the reorganization of communities under future ocean acidification conditions. Yet, this hypothesis has been little tested by in situ pH manipulation. A Free Ocean Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FOCE) system was used to lower pH by a ~ 0.3 unit offset within a partially enclosed portion (1.7 m3) of a Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow (11 m depth) between 21 June and 3 November 2014. Epibiont colonization and early post settlement stages were assessed within the FOCE setup, as part of the larger community-level study, to better understand the outcome for a multispecies assemblage and the ecological processes that result in reported community shifts under altered carbonate chemistry. Two types of artificial collectors (tiles and scourers) were placed within three treatments: a pH-manipulated enclosure, an un-manipulated control enclosure, and an open plot in the ambient meadow. Tiles and scourers were collected after one to four months. Additionally, to see whether the outcome differed for communities in a later successional stage, previously settled scourer-collectors were also placed in the same three treatments. Enclosures acted to reduce settlement and migrant colonization. Scourers deployed for one to four months within the open-plot contained a community assemblage that could be distinguished from the assemblages within the enclosures. However, a comparison of enclosure assemblages on tiles showed evidence of a pH effect. There was lowered coverage of crustose coralline algae and fewer calcareous tube-forming polychaetes (Spirorbis sp. and Spirobranchus sp.) on tiles placed in the pH-manipulated enclosure compared to the un-manipulated enclosure. For assemblages in scourer collectors, shared and common taxa, in all treatments, were invertebrate polychaetes Psamathe fusca, Sphaerosyllis sp., Chrysopetalum sp., arthropods Harpacticoida, and Amphipoda, and the juvenile bivalve Lyonsia sp. Similar organism composition and abundance, as well as taxonomic richness and evenness, were found in scourers from both enclosures. Pre-settled scourers contained greater numbers of individuals and more calcified members, but the assemblage, as well as the growth rate of a juvenile bivalve Lyonsia sp., appeared unaffected by a two-month exposure to lowered pH and calcium carbonate saturation state. Results from this case study support the hypothesis that early stages of specific calcifiers (crustose coralline algae and calcareous tube-forming polychaetes) are sensitive to near future ocean acidification conditions yet suggest that negative effects on sessile micro-invertebrate assemblages will be minimal.

Continue reading ‘Effects of in situ CO2 enrichment on epibiont settlement on artificial substrata within a Posidonia oceanica meadow’

The sibling polychaetes Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis massiliensis in the Mediterranean Sea: are phylogeographic patterns related to exposure to ocean acidification?

High pCO2 environments, such as volcanic carbon dioxide (CO2) vents, which mimic predicted near-future scenarios of ocean acidification (OA), offer an opportunity to examine effects of low pH conditions on marine biodiversity and adaptation/acclimatization of marine organisms to such conditions. Based on previous field studies in these systems, it is predicted that the stress owing to increasing CO2 concentrations favours the colonization by invertebrate species with a brooding habit. The goal of this study was to investigate the relative occurrence of the two sibling species Platynereis dumerilii (Audouin & Milne-Edwards, 1834) (free spawner) and Platynereis massiliensis (Moquin-Tandon, 1869) (egg brooder) in two shallow CO2 vents off Ischia and Vulcano islands (Italy, Tyrrhenian Sea), and in various areas with ambient pH conditions, where they represent one of the dominant genera. Phylogeographic analyses were integrated with reproductive biology and life-history observations on some selected populations thriving in the vent areas. This approach revealed the presence of four distinct Platynereis clades. Whereas two clades primarily inhabit CO2 vents and are presumably all brooders, the other two clades dominate the non-acidified sites and appear to be epitokous free spawners. We postulate that one of the brooding, vent-inhabiting clades represents P. massiliensis and one of the free spawning, non-vent-inhabiting clades represents P. dumerilii, although confirmation of the species status with sequence data from the respective-type localities would be desirable.

Continue reading ‘The sibling polychaetes Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis massiliensis in the Mediterranean Sea: are phylogeographic patterns related to exposure to ocean acidification?’

Ocean acidification as a driver of community simplification via the collapse of higher-order and rise of lower-order consumers

Increasing oceanic uptake of CO2 is predicted to drive ecological change as both a resource (i.e. CO2 enrichment on primary producers) and stressor (i.e. lower pH on consumers). We use the natural ecological complexity of a CO2 vent (i.e. a seagrass system) to assess the potential validity of conceptual models developed from laboratory and mesocosm research. Our observations suggest that the stressor-effect of CO2enrichment combined with its resource-effect drives simplified food web structure of lower trophic diversity and shorter length. The transfer of CO2 enrichment from plants to herbivores through consumption (apparent resource-effect) was not compensated by predation, because carnivores failed to contain herbivore outbreaks. Instead, these higher-order consumers collapsed (apparent stressor-effect on carnivores) suggesting limited trophic propagation to predator populations. The dominance of primary producers and their lower-order consumers along with the loss of carnivores reflects the duality of intensifying ocean acidification acting both as resource-effect (i.e. bottom-up control) and stressor-effect (i.e. top-down control) to simplify community and trophic structure and function. This shifting balance between the propagation of resource enrichment and its consumption across trophic levels provides new insights into how the trophic dynamics might stabilize against or propagate future environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification as a driver of community simplification via the collapse of higher-order and rise of lower-order consumers’

Natural acidification changes the timing and rate of succession, alters community structure, and increases homogeneity in marine biofouling communities

Ocean acidification may have far-reaching consequences for marine community and ecosystem dynamics, but its full impacts remain poorly understood due to the difficulty of manipulating pCO2 at the ecosystem level to mimic realistic fluctuations that occur on a number of different timescales. It is especially unclear how quickly communities at various stages of development respond to intermediate-scale pCO2 change and, if high pCO2 is relieved mid-succession, whether past acidification effects persist, are reversed by alleviation of pCO2 stress, or are worsened by departures from prior high pCO2 conditions to which organisms had acclimatized. Here, we used reciprocal transplant experiments along a shallow water volcanic pCO2 gradient to assess the importance of the timing and duration of high pCO2 exposure (i.e. discrete events at different stages of successional development vs. continuous exposure) on patterns of colonization and succession in a benthic fouling community. We show that succession at the acidified site was initially delayed (less community change by eight weeks) but then caught up over the next four weeks. These changes in succession led to homogenization of communities maintained in or transplanted to acidified conditions, and altered community structure in ways that reflected both short- and longer-term acidification history. These community shifts are likely a result of interspecific variability in response to increased pCO2 and changes in species interactions. High pCO2 altered biofilm development, allowing serpulids to do best at the acidified site by the end of the experiment, although early (pre-transplant), negative effects of pCO2 on recruitment of these worms was still detectable. The ascidians Diplosoma sp. and Botryllus sp. settled later and were more tolerant to acidification. Overall, transient and persistent acidification-driven changes in the biofouling community, via both past and more recent exposure, could have important implications for ecosystem function and food web dynamics.

Continue reading ‘Natural acidification changes the timing and rate of succession, alters community structure, and increases homogeneity in marine biofouling communities’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book