Posts Tagged 'mollusks'

Ocean acidification reduces hardness and stiffness of the Portuguese oyster shell with impaired microstructure: a hierarchical analysis

The rapidly intensifying process of ocean acidification (OA) due to anthropogenic CO2 is not only depleting carbonate ions necessary for calcification but also causing acidosis and disrupting internal pH homeostasis in several marine organisms. These negative consequences of OA on marine calcifiers, i.e. oyster species, have been very well documented in recent studies; however, the consequences of reduced or impaired calcification on the end-product, shells or skeletons, still remain one of the major research gaps. Shells produced by marine organisms under OA are expected to show signs of dissolution, disorganized microstructure and reduced mechanical properties. To bridge this knowledge gap and to test the above hypothesis, we investigated the effect of OA on juvenile shells of the commercially important oyster species, Magallana angulata, at ecologically and climatically relevant OA levels (using pH 8.1, 7.8, 7.5, 7.2). In lower pH conditions, a drop of shell hardness and stiffness was revealed by nanoindentation tests, while an evident porous internal microstructure was detected by scanning electron microscopy. Crystallographic orientation, on the other hand, showed no significant difference with decreasing pH using electron back-scattered diffraction (EBSD). These results indicate the porous internal microstructure may be the cause of the reduction in shell hardness and stiffness. The overall decrease of shell density observed from micro-computed tomography analysis indicates the porous internal microstructure may run through the shell, thus inevitably limiting the effectiveness of the shell’s defensive function. This study shows the potential deterioration of oyster shells induced by OA, especially in their early life stage. This knowledge is critical to estimate the survival and production of edible oysters in the future ocean.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification reduces hardness and stiffness of the Portuguese oyster shell with impaired microstructure: a hierarchical analysis’

Condition of pteropod shells near a volcanic CO2 vent region


 • in situ shell dissolution and change in shell biomass were the predominant features observed in the live pteropods collected within and nearby CO2 vent regions.

• Low pteropod biomass shells (collected nearby the CO2 vents) were more fragile and therefore more prone to fracture than the more robust, high biomass shells (collected in the control stations).

• In the Gulf of Naples, intermittent shifts away from optimum Ωar values can significantly affect pteropod calcification despite waters remaining oversaturated.


Natural gradients of pH in the ocean are useful analogues for studying the projected impacts of Ocean Acidification (OA) on marine ecosystems. Here we document the in situ impact of submarine CO2 volcanic emissions (CO2 vents) on live shelled-pteropods (planktonic gastropods) species Creseis conica in the Gulf of Naples (Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean). Since the currents inside the Gulf will likely drive those pelagic calcifying organisms into and out of the CO2 vent zones, we assume that pteropods will be occasionally exposed to the vents during their life cycle. Shell degradation and biomass were investigated in the stations located within and nearby the CO2 vent emission in relation to the variability of sea water carbonate chemistry. A relative decrease in shell biomass (22%), increase in incidence of shell fractures (38%) and extent of dissolution were observed in Creseis conica collected in the Gulf of Naples compared to those from the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea (control stations). These results suggest that discontinuous but recurrent exposure to highly variable carbonate chemistry could consistently affect the characteristic of the pteropod shells.

Continue reading ‘Condition of pteropod shells near a volcanic CO2 vent region’

Ocean acidification exacerbates the effects of paralytic shellfish toxins on the fitness of the edible mussel Mytilus chilensis


• The association between pCO2 – PST impacts negatively of the physiology of M. chilensis
• The association between pCO2 and PST may also result in indirect effect on mussel fitness.
• The inhibition of energy acquisition by PST may negatively impact mussel fitness.


High latitudes are considered particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification, since they are naturally low in carbonate ions. The edible mussel Mytilus chilensis is a common calcifier inhabiting marine ecosystems of the southern Chile, where culturing of this species is concentrated and where algal blooms produced by the toxic dinoflagellate A. catenella are becoming more frequent. Juvenile Mytilus chilensis were exposed to experimental conditions simulating two environmental phenomena: pCO2 increase and the presence of paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) produced by the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella. Individuals were exposed to two levels of pCO2: 380 μatm (control condition) and 1000 μatm (future conditions) over a period of 39 days (acclimation), followed by another period of 40 days exposure to a combination of pCO2 and PST. Both factors significantly affected most of the physiological variables measured (feeding, metabolism and scope for growth). However, these effects greatly varied over time, which can be explained by the high individual variability described for mussels exposed to different environmental conditions. Absorption efficiency was not affected by the independent effect of the toxic diet; however, the diet and pCO2 interaction affected it significantly. The inhibition of the physiological processes related with energy acquisition by diets containing PST, may negatively impact mussel fitness, which could have important consequences for both wild and cultured mussel populations, and thus, for socioeconomic development in southern Chile.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification exacerbates the effects of paralytic shellfish toxins on the fitness of the edible mussel Mytilus chilensis’

Quantifying sensitivity and adaptive capacity of shellfish in the Northern California Current Ecosystem to increasing prevalence of ocean acidification and hypoxia

The severity of carbonate chemistry changes from ocean acidification is predicted to increase greatly in the coming decades, with serious consequences for marine species-­ especially those reliant on calcium carbonate for structure and function (Fabry et al. 2008). The Northern California Current Ecosystem off the coast of US West Coast experiences seasonal variations in upwelling and downwelling patterns creating natural episodes of hypoxia and calcite/aragonite undersaturation, exacerbating global trends of increasing ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH) (Chan et al. 2008) (Gruber et al. 2012). The goal of these experiments was to identify thresholds of tolerance and attempt to quantify a point at which variance in responses to stress collapses. This study focuses on two species: Cancer magister (Dungeness crab) and Haliotis rufescens (red abalone). These species were selected for this study based on their economic and ecological value, as well as their taxonomic differences. Respirometry was used as a proxy for metabolic activity at four different scenarios mimicking preindustrial, upwelling, contemporary upwelling, and distant future conditions by manipulating dissolved oxygen and inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations. Both species showed a decrease in mean respiration rate as OAH stressors increase, including an effect in contemporary upwelling conditions. These results suggest that current exposure to ocean acidification (OA) and hypoxia do not confer resilience to these stressors for either taxa. In teasing apart the effects of OAH as multiple stressors, it was found that Dungeness crab response was more strongly driven by concentration of dissolved oxygen, while red abalone data suggested a strong interactive effect between OA and hypoxia. Not only did these two different taxa exhibit different responses to a multiple stressors, but the fact that the Dungeness crab were secondarily impacted by acidification could suggest that current management concerns may need to be focus more strongly on deoxygenation.

Continue reading ‘Quantifying sensitivity and adaptive capacity of shellfish in the Northern California Current Ecosystem to increasing prevalence of ocean acidification and hypoxia’

The impact of ocean acidification on the byssal threads of the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis)

Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) produce byssal threads to anchor themselves to the substrate. These threads are always exposed to the surrounding environmental conditions. Understanding how environmental pH affects these threads is crucial in understanding how climate change can affect mussels. This work examines three factors (load at failure, thread extensibility, and total thread counts) that indicate the performance of byssal threads as well as condition index to assess impacts on the physiological condition of mussels held in artificial seawater acidified by the addition of CO2. There was no significant variation between the control (~786 μatm CO2 / ~7.98 pH/ ~2805 μmol kg-1 total alkalinity) and acidified (~2555 μatm CO2 / ~7.47 pH/ ~2650 μmol kg-1 total alkalinity) treatment groups in any of these factors. The results of this study suggest that ocean acidification by CO2 addition has no significant effect on the quality and performance of threads produced by M. edulis.

Continue reading ‘The impact of ocean acidification on the byssal threads of the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis)’

The ability of macroalgae to mitigate the negative effects of ocean acidification on four species of North Atlantic bivalve (updated)

Coastal ecosystems can experience acidification via upwelling, eutrophication, riverine discharge, and climate change. While the resulting increases in pCO2 can have deleterious effects on calcifying animals, this change in carbonate chemistry may benefit some marine autotrophs. Here, we report on experiments performed with North Atlantic populations of hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria), eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica), bay scallops (Argopecten irradians), and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) grown with and without North Atlantic populations of the green macroalgae, Ulva. In six of seven experiments, exposure to elevated pCO2 levels ( ∼ 1700µatm) resulted in depressed shell- and/or tissue-based growth rates of bivalves compared to control conditions, whereas rates were significantly higher in the presence of Ulva in all experiments. In many cases, the co-exposure to elevated pCO2 levels and Ulva had an antagonistic effect on bivalve growth rates whereby the presence of Ulva under elevated pCO2 levels significantly improved their performance compared to the acidification-only treatment. Saturation states for calcium carbonate (Ω) were significantly higher in the presence of Ulva under both ambient and elevated CO2 delivery rates, and growth rates of bivalves were significantly correlated with Ω in six of seven experiments. Collectively, the results suggest that photosynthesis and/or nitrate assimilation by Ulva increased alkalinity, fostering a carbonate chemistry regime more suitable for optimal growth of calcifying bivalves. This suggests that large natural and/or aquacultured collections of macroalgae in acidified environments could serve as a refuge for calcifying animals that may otherwise be negatively impacted by elevated pCO2 levels and depressed Ω.

Continue reading ‘The ability of macroalgae to mitigate the negative effects of ocean acidification on four species of North Atlantic bivalve (updated)’

Assessing the impacts of ocean acidification on adhesion and shell formation in the barnacle Amphibalanus amphitrite

Barnacles are dominant members of marine intertidal communities. Their success depends on firm attachment provided by their proteinaceous adhesive and protection imparted by their calcified shell plates. Little is known about how variations in the environment affect adhesion and shell formation processes in barnacles. Increased levels of atmospheric CO2 have led to a reduction in the pH of ocean waters (i.e., ocean acidification), a trend that is expected to continue into the future. Here, we assessed if a reduction in seawater pH, at levels predicted within the next 200 years, would alter physiology, adhesion, and shell formation in the cosmopolitan barnacle Amphibalanus (=Balanus) amphitrite. Juvenile barnacles, settled on silicone substrates, were exposed to one of three static levels of pHT, 8.01, 7.78, or 7.50, for 13 weeks. We found that barnacles were robust to reduced pH, with no effect of pH on physiological metrics (mortality, tissue mass, and presence of eggs). Likewise, adhesive properties (adhesion strength and adhesive plaque gross morphology) were not affected by reduced pH. Shell formation, however, was affected by seawater pH. Shell mass and base plate area were higher in barnacles exposed to reduced pH; barnacles grown at pHT 8.01 exhibited approximately 30% lower shell mass and 20% smaller base plate area as compared to those at pHT 7.50 or 7.78. Enhanced growth at reduced pH appears to be driven by the increased size of the calcite crystals that comprise the shell. Despite enhanced growth, mechanical properties of the base plate (but not the parietal plates) were compromised at the lowest pH level. Barnacle base plates at pHT 7.50 broke more easily and crack propagation, measured through microhardness testing, was significantly affected by seawater pH. Other shell metrics (plate thickness, relative crystallinity, and atomic disorder) were not affected by seawater pH. Hence, a reduction in pH resulted in larger barnacles but with base plates that would crack more readily. It is yet to be determined if such changes would alter the survival of A. amphitrite in the field, but changes in the abundance of this ecologically dominant species would undoubtedly affect the composition of biofouling communities.

Continue reading ‘Assessing the impacts of ocean acidification on adhesion and shell formation in the barnacle Amphibalanus amphitrite’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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