Posts Tagged 'mollusks'

Oyster biomineralisation under ocean acidification: from genes to shell

Biomineralisation is one of the key processes that is notably affected in marine calcifiers such as oysters under ocean acidification (OA). Understanding molecular changes in the biomineralisation process under OA and its heritability, therefore, is key to developing conservation strategies for protecting ecologically and economically important oyster species. To do this, in this study we have explicitly chosen the tissue involved in biomineralisation (mantle) of an estuarine commercial oyster species, Crassostrea hongkongensis. The primary aim of this study is to understand the influence of DNA methylation over gene expression of mantle tissue under decreased ~ pH 7.4, a proxy of OA, and to extrapolate if these molecular changes can be observed in the product of biomineralisation – the shell. We grew early juvenile C. hongkongensis, under decreased ~ pH 7.4 and control ~ pH 8.0 over 4.5 months and studied OA‐induced DNA methylation and gene expression patterns along with shell properties such as microstructure, crystal orientation and hardness.

The population of oysters used in this study was found to be moderately resilient to OA at the end of the experiment. The expression of key biomineralisation related genes such as carbonic anhydrase and alkaline phosphatase remained unaffected, thus, mechanical properties of the shell (shell growth rate, hardness and crystal orientation) were also maintained without any significant difference between control and OA conditions with signs of severe dissolution. In addition, this study makes three major conclusions: 1) higher expression of Ca2+ binding/signalling related genes in the mantle play a key role in maintaining biomineralisation under OA, 2) DNA methylation changes occur in response to OA, however, these methylation changes do not directly control gene expression, 3) OA would be more of a ‘dissolution problem’ rather than a ‘biomineralisation problem’ for resilient species that maintain calcification rate with normal shell growth and mechanical properties.

Continue reading ‘Oyster biomineralisation under ocean acidification: from genes to shell’

Exploring coastal acidification and oyster restoration activities on the United States Atlantic coast

Executive Summary

The global ocean mediates the effect of climate change and anthropogenic carbon emissions by absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (Ellis et al., 2017). The ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide results in a change in ocean chemistry and decline in seawater pH known as ocean acidification (Kapsenberg and Cyronak, 2018). Changes in ocean chemistry and pH may also be driven by primary production activity, upwelling, and river runoff into marine environments (Richards et al., 2014). Ocean acidification has the potential to adversely affect numerous marine organisms (Kapsenberg and Cyronak, 2018), however, it can be especially problematic for calcifying shellfish species (Swezey et al., 2020) like the Eastern Oyster and larval or juvenile stage organisms (Mangi et al., 2018). Temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen levels, and acidification impact the health and longevity of oysters and oyster reefs. Oyster reefs offer numerous ecosystem services. These reefs provide habitat for benthic invertebrates, seabirds and fish that rely on reefs for feeding, nursery, and breeding grounds (Burrows et al., 2005). The Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is a native oyster species of the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Although oysters reefs support coastal livelihoods and offer numerous ecosystem services, many reefs have been degraded by anthropogenic activities (Burrows et al., 2005). Pollution, over-harvest, and an increase in loading of suspended sediments are key threats to oyster reef health (Burrows et al., 2005). Oyster reef restoration projects focus on returning reefs to their natural state. Given the role of oysters as ecosystem engineers, and the many benefits that may be derived from healthy oyster reefs, restoration projects are a priority for communities throughout the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

Cooley et al. 2016 recommends several effective community actions that may be taken to help address ocean acidification today. This project focuses on two non-legislative actions discussed by Cooley et al. 2016. These are public education related to coastal acidification and resilience management through oyster reef restoration projects. The purpose of this project is to support coastal resource-reliant communities on the U.S. Atlantic Coast in preparing for the potential future impacts of ocean acidification on C. virginica. The project examines trends in the oyster reef restoration projects presently underway at the state and local level along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and it considers how coastal acidification may affect the longevity of the region’s oyster reefs. Finally, the project considers the future research and management considerations needed to adequately protect oyster reefs under changing climatic conditions.

Continue reading ‘Exploring coastal acidification and oyster restoration activities on the United States Atlantic coast’

Differential responses in anti-predation traits of the native oyster Ostrea edulis and invasive Magallana gigas to ocean acidification and warming

Ocean acidification and warming (OAW) pose a threat to marine organisms, with particular negative effects on molluscs, and can jeopardize the provision of associated ecosystem services. As predation is an important factor shaping populations in the marine environment, the ability of organisms to retain traits valuable in predation resistance under OAW may be decisive for future population maintenance. We examine how exposure to seawater temperature (control: 16.8°C and warm: 20°C) and atmospheric pCO2 (ambient [~400], ~750, and ~1000 ppm) conditions affects traits linked to predation resistance (adductor muscle strength and shell strength) in two ecologically and economically important species of oysters (Magallana gigas and Ostrea edulis) and relate them to changes in morphometry and fitness (condition index, muscle and shell metrics). We show that O. edulis remained unimpacted following exposure to OAW scenarios. In contrast, the adductor muscle of M. gigas was 52% stronger under elevated temperature and ~750 ppm pCO2, and its shell was 44% weaker under combined elevated temperature and ~1000 ppm pCO2. This suggests greater resistance to mechanical predation toward the mid-21st century, but greater susceptibility toward the end of the century. For both species, individuals with more somatic tissue held an ecological advantage against predators; consequently, smaller oysters may be favoured by predators under OAW. By affecting fitness and predation resistance, OAW may be expected to induce shifts in predator-prey interactions and reshape assemblage structure due to species and size selection, which may consequently modify oyster reef functioning. This could in turn have implications for the provision of associated ecosystem services.

Continue reading ‘Differential responses in anti-predation traits of the native oyster Ostrea edulis and invasive Magallana gigas to ocean acidification and warming’

Geographical variation in phenotypic plasticity of intertidal sister limpet’s species under ocean acidification scenarios

Ocean Acidification (OA) can have pervasive effects in calcifying marine organisms, and a better understanding of how different populations respond at the physiological and evolutionary level could help to model the impacts of global change in marine ecosystems. Due to its natural geography and oceanographic processes, the Chilean coast provides a natural laboratory where benthic organisms are frequently exposed to diverse projected OA scenarios. The goal of this study was to assess whether a population of mollusks thriving in a more variable environment (Talcaruca) would present higher phenotypic plasticity in physiological and morphological traits in response to different pCO2 when compared to a population of the same species from a more stable environment (Los Molles). To achieve this, two benthic limpets (Scurria zebrina and Scurria viridula) inhabiting these two contrasting localities were exposed to ocean acidification experimental conditions representing the current pCO2 in the Chilean coast (500 μatm) and the levels predicted for the year 2100 in upwelling zones (1500 (μatm). Our results show that the responses to OA are species-specific, even in this related species. Interestingly, S. viridula showed better performance under OA than S. zebrina (i.e., similar sizes and carbonate content in individuals from both populations; lower effects of acidification on the growth rate combined with a reduction of metabolism at higher pCO2). Remarkably, these characteristics could explain this species’ success in overstepping the biogeographical break in the area of Talcaruca, which S. zebrina cannot achieve. Besides, the results show that the habitat factor has a strong influence on some traits. For instance, individuals from Talcaruca presented a higher growth rate plasticity index and lower shell dissolution rates in acidified conditions than those from Los Molles. These results show that limpets from the variable environment tend to display higher plasticity, buffering the physiological effects of OA compared with limpets from the more stable environment. Taken together, these findings highlight the key role of geographic variation in phenotypic plasticity to determine the vulnerability of calcifying organisms to future scenarios of OA.

Continue reading ‘Geographical variation in phenotypic plasticity of intertidal sister limpet’s species under ocean acidification scenarios’

Morphological properties of gastropod shells in a warmer and more acidic future ocean using 3D micro-computed tomography

The increased absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the ocean reduces pH and affects the carbonate chemistry of seawater, thus interfering with the shell formation processes of marine calcifiers. The present study aims to examine the effects of ocean acidification and warming on the shell morphological properties of two intertidal gastropod species, Nassarius nitidus and Columbella rustica. The experimental treatments lasted for 3 months and combined a temperature increase of 3°C and a pH reduction of 0.3 units. The selected treatments reflected the high emissions (RCP 8.5) “business as usual” scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models for eastern Mediterranean. The morphological and architectural properties of the shell, such as density, thickness and porosity were examined using 3D micro-computed tomography, which is a technique giving the advantage of calculating values for the total shell (not only at specific points) and at the same time leaving the shells intact. Nassarius nitidus had a lower shell density and thickness and a higher porosity when the pH was reduced at ambient temperature, but the combination of reduced pH and increased temperature did not have a noticeable effect in comparison to the control. The shell of Columbella rustica was less dense, thinner and more porous under acidic and warm conditions, but when the temperature was increased under ambient pH the shells were thicker and denser than the control. Under low pH and ambient temperature, shells showed no differences compared to the control. The vulnerability of calcareous shells to ocean acidification and warming appears to be variable among species. Plasticity of shell building organisms as an acclimation action toward a continuously changing marine environment needs to be further investigated focusing on species or shell region specific adaptation mechanisms.

Continue reading ‘Morphological properties of gastropod shells in a warmer and more acidic future ocean using 3D micro-computed tomography’

Elevated pCO2 reinforces preference among intertidal algae in both a specialist and generalist herbivore


  • Elevated pCO2 influences growth and chemical composition of some intertidal algae.
  • Herbivore preference is reinforced by resilience of preferred alga to pCO2 exposure.
  • Preference is also influenced by changes in lesser-preferred algal species.
  • Specialist and generalist feeding may be indirectly affected by ocean acidification.


Ocean acidification (OA) can induce changes in marine organisms and species interactions. We examined OA effects on intertidal macroalgal growth, palatability, and consumption by a specialist crab (Pugettia producta) and a generalist snail (Tegula funebralis) herbivore. Moderate increases in pCO2 increased algal growth in most species, but effects of pCO2 on C:N and phenolic content varied by species. Elevated pCO2 had no effect on algal acceptability to herbivores, but did affect their preference ranks. Under elevated pCO2, electivity for a preferred kelp (Egregia menziesii) and preference rankings among algal species strengthened for both P. producta and T. funebralis, attributable to resilience of E. menziesii in elevated pCO2 and to changes in palatability among less-preferred species. Preferred algae may therefore grow more under moderate pCO2 increases in the future, but their appeal to herbivores may be strengthened by associated shifts in nutritional quality and defensive compounds in other species.

Continue reading ‘Elevated pCO2 reinforces preference among intertidal algae in both a specialist and generalist herbivore’

Parental whole life cycle exposure modulates progeny responses to ocean acidification in slipper limpets

Multigenerational exposure is needed to assess the evolutionary potential of organisms in the rapidly changing seascape. Here, we investigate if there is a transgenerational effect of ocean acidification exposure on a calyptraeid gastropod such that long‐term exposure elevates offspring resilience. Larvae from wild type Crepidula onyx adults were reared from hatching until sexual maturity for over 36 months under three pH conditions (pH 7.3, 7.7, and 8.0). While the survivorship, growth, and respiration rate of F1 larvae were unaffected by acute ocean acidification (OA), long‐term and whole life‐cycle exposure significantly compromised adult survivorship, growth, and reproductive output of the slipper limpets. When kept under low pH throughout their life cycle, only 6% of the F1 slipper limpets survived pH 7.3 conditions after ~2.5 years and the number of larvae they released was ~10% of those released by the control. However, the F2 progeny from adults kept under the long‐term low pH condition hatched at a comparable size to those in medium and control pH conditions. More importantly, these F2 progeny from low pH adults outperformed F2 slipper limpets from control conditions; they had higher larval survivorship and growth, and reduced respiration rate across pH conditions, even at the extreme low pH of 7.0. The intragenerational negative consequences of OA during long‐term acclimation highlights potential carryover effects and ontogenetic shifts in stress vulnerability, especially prior to and during reproduction. Yet, the presence of a transgenerational effect implies that this slipper limpet, which has been widely introduced along the West Pacific coasts, has the potential to adapt to rapid acidification.

Continue reading ‘Parental whole life cycle exposure modulates progeny responses to ocean acidification in slipper limpets’

Regulation of apoptosis by Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas reveals acclimation strategy to CO2 driven acidification


  • Apoptosis ratio increased and caspase-3/9 was activated under short-term CO2 exposure.
  • Opposite phenomenon was observed under long-term CO2 exposure.
  • CgBcl-XL mRNA level displayed significant up-regulation under long term CO2 exposure.
  • In vivo knock down of CgBcl-XL demonstrated its anti-apoptotic role.
  • The protein level of CgBcl-XL increased significantly under long-term CO2 exposure.


Ocean acidification (OA) has posed formidable threats to marine calcifiers. In response to elevated CO2 levels, marine calcifiers have developed multiple strategies to survive, such as taking advantage of apoptosis, but its regulation mechanism remains largely unknown. Here, we used the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas as model to understand the apoptotic responses and regulation mechanism at short- (7 d) to long-term (56 d) CO2 exposure (pH = 7.50). The apoptosis of hemocytes was significantly induced after short-term treatment (7–21 d) but was suppressed under long-term CO2 exposure (42–56 d). Similarly, caspase-3 and caspase-9 were also increased post short-term exposure and fell back to normal levels after long-term exposure. These data together indicated diverse regulation mechanisms of apoptosis through different exposure periods. Through analysis of the B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family mitochondrial apoptosis regulators, we showed that only CgBcl-XL’s expression kept at high levels after 42- and 56-day CO2 exposure. CgBcl-XL shared sequence, and structural similarity with its mammalian counterpart, and knockdown of CgBcl-XL in hemocytes via RNA interference promoted apoptosis. The protein level of CgBcl-XL was significantly increased after long-term CO2 exposure (28–56 d), and its distribution in hemocytes became more concentrated and dense. Therefore, CgBcl-XL serves as an essential anti-apoptotic protein for tipping the balance of cell apoptosis, which may play a key role in survival under long-term CO2 exposure. These results reveal a potential adaptation strategy of oysters towards OA and the variable environment changes through the modulation of apoptosis.

Continue reading ‘Regulation of apoptosis by Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas reveals acclimation strategy to CO2 driven acidification’

Adult exposure to ocean acidification and warming remains beneficial for oyster larvae following starvation

Climate change is expected to warm and acidify oceans and alter the phenology of phytoplankton, creating a mismatch between larvae and their food. Transgenerational plasticity (TGP) may allow marine species to acclimate to climate change; however, it is expected that this may come with elevated energetic demands. This study used the oysters, Saccostrea glomerata and Crassostrea gigas, to test the effects of adult parental exposure to elevated pCO2 and temperature on larvae during starvation and recovery. It was anticipated that beneficial effects of TGP will be limited when larvae oyster are starved. Transgenerational responses and lipid reserves of larvae were measured for 2 weeks. Larvae of C. gigas and S. glomerata from parents exposed to elevated pCO2 had greater survival when exposed to elevated CO2, but this differed between species and temperature. For S. glomerata, survival of larvae was greatest when the conditions experienced by larvae matched the condition of their parents. For C. gigas, survival of larvae was greater when parents and larvae were exposed to elevated pCO2. Larvae of both species used lipids when starved. The total lipid content was dependent on parental exposure and temperature. Against expectations, the beneficial TGP responses of larvae remained, despite starvation.

Continue reading ‘Adult exposure to ocean acidification and warming remains beneficial for oyster larvae following starvation’

Effects of extra feeding combined with ocean acidification and increased temperature on the carbon isotope values (δ13C) in the mussel shell


  • Ocean acidification, OA, increased metabolic carbon uptake in mussel shell calcite.
  • Additive effects of increased temperature and extra feeding on carbon uptake.
  • Mussels alter their biomineralisation pathways relating to food carbon uptake.
  • Metabolic carbon uptake is 7–11% higher in the shell aragonite compared to calcite.
  • Molluscs with different composites may alter biomineralisation under OA.


Ocean acidification (OA) and global warming present future challenges for shell producing organisms such as mussels through reduction in the carbonate available to produce shells in these and other valuable aquaculture species. Molluscs control their shell growth through biomineralisation, but the response of the mechanisms behind biomineralisation to OA conditions are relatively unknown. It is unclear how much carbon is taken into the shell from the environment compared to the uptake through the food source. Shell production is energetically costly to molluscs and metabolic processes and energetic partitioning may affect their ability to perform the underlying mechanisms of biomineralisation under OA. It is possible that additional food consumption might alleviate some impacts caused by acidification. We assessed the ability of extra feeding to alter the impacts of OA and increased temperatures on adult Mytilus edulis. Carbon isotopes (δ13C) were used to examine the change in biomineralisation pathway in mussels. OA did not alter the δ13C directly in separate analyses of the shell calcite and aragonite layers, mantle tissue and extrapallial fluid. However, ambient treatments with increased temperatures altered the mussel biomineralisation pathway in the shell calcite using CO32− instead of HCO3 as the main source of carbon. The proportion of metabolic carbon uptake into the mussel shell calcite layer increased under OA, with additive effects when exposed to increased temperatures and extra feeding. The proportion of metabolic carbon uptake is higher (7%–11%) in the shell aragonite layer compared to calcite, under ambient treatments. OA initially reduced the metabolic carbon uptake into the shell aragonite, but after a period of 4-months with extra feeding, the mussels were able to adjust their metabolic carbon uptake to a level experienced under ambient treatments. This indicates that an abundance of food resources may enable changes in mussel biomineralisation pathways to compensate for any decrease in seawater inorganic carbon associated with OA. The impact of OA on phytoplankton varies from species to species, changing the structure of the community which could provide sufficient food resources to maintain metabolic carbon uptake for mussel shell growth. This study of δ13C isotopic values has identified changes in biomineralisation pathway relating to the mussel metabolic carbon uptake from their food source, with varying results for the aragonite and calcite shell polymorphs. The implications of these findings suggest that some bivalve species with different shell composites may cope better under OA than others, demanding further study into species-specific biomineralisation pathways.

Continue reading ‘Effects of extra feeding combined with ocean acidification and increased temperature on the carbon isotope values (δ13C) in the mussel shell’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book