Posts Tagged 'mollusks'

The effects of climate change on the heart rates & growth of sea slugs in the Gulf of Maine

In the next 80 years, sea surface temperatures are expected to increase by 1.5o to 2oC and ocean pH is expected to drop by 0.06 to 0.32 units, with exacerbated effects seen in coastal waters. Temperature increase has already forced organisms to shift their range polewards and ocean acidification has negatively affected calcifying organisms. Interactive effects, only more recently studied, vary depending on phylum and life cycle stage. This study examined both the upper thermal tolerance and interactive effect of temperature and acidification on the heart rate of five cold-water species of nudibranchs (Aeolidia papillosa, Cuthona gymnota, Dendronotus frondosus, Flabellina verrucosa, and Onchidoris bilamellata) and one species of sacoglossan (Placida dendritica) from the Gulf of Maine. Thermal tolerance was determined by recording heart rate for each organism starting at 4oC and increasing the temperature by increments of 4oC until the organism’s heartbeat slowed or ceased. For interactive effects, pH levels used were pH 8 (control) and pH 7 at temperatures: 4o, 8o (control), 12o, and 16oC. Upper thermal tolerance limits ranged from 16o to 20oC for the nudibranchs and 24oC for the sacoglossan. The combined effects of increasing temperature and lower pH were neutral, negatively additive, and antagonistic. Only F. verrucosa exhibited an interactive effect, with higher temperature and lower pH leading to decreased heart rate. Although no interactive effect was demonstrated in C. xgymnota, D. frondosus, and O. bilamellata, lower pH slowed heart rates across all temperatures. Subsequently, the relationship between temperature and growth rates was examined in D. frondosus and F. verrucosa. The nudibranchs were reared for eight weeks at 4o, 10o, or 16oC and growth was measured weekly. The ideal temperature for growth appeared to be 10oC, whereas 16oC was lethal. Additionally, an unsuccessful attempt was made to culture A. papillosa, but the number of embryos per egg capsule and larval growth rates were examined. Size of adult sea slug positively impacted the number of embryos per egg capsule, with embryos increasing in length by 50% over the first week and 10% over subsequent weeks. With an interactive effect only seen in one species and upper temperatures being lethal if held constant for a month, temperature appears to be the greatest threat to survival. What is happening to these sea slugs in the GOM is likely happening to other snails and marine invertebrates throughout the ocean. Knowing how organisms will react to the projected changes can help inform future policies and practices.

Continue reading ‘The effects of climate change on the heart rates & growth of sea slugs in the Gulf of Maine’

Co-culture in marine farms: macroalgae can act as chemical refuge for shell-forming molluscs under an ocean acidification scenario

With ongoing climate change, aquaculture faces environmental challenges similar to those of natural ecosystems. These include increasing stress for calcifying species, e.g. macroalgae and shellfish. In this context, ocean acidification (OA) has the potential to affect important socioeconomic activities, including shellfish aquaculture, due to changes in the seawater carbonate system. However, coastal environments are characterised by strong diurnal pH fluctuations associated with the metabolic activity of macroalgae; that is, photosynthesis and respiration. This suggests that calcifying organisms that inhabit these ecosystems are adapted to this fluctuating pH environment. Macrophyte-dominated environments may have the potential to act as an OA buffering system in the form of a photosynthetic footprint, by reducing excess of CO2 and increasing the seawater pH and Ωarg. This can support calcification and other threatened physiological processes of calcifying organisms under a reduced pH environment. Because this footprint is supportive beyond the macroalgal canopy spatial area, this chemical refuge mechanism can be applied to support shellfish aquaculture, e.g. mussels. However, this approach should be tested in commercial shellfish farms to determine critical aspects of implementation. This includes critical factors such as target species and productivity rates. The degree of OA buffering capacity caused by the metabolic activity of macroalgae might depend on community structure and hydrodynamic conditions, creating site-specific responses. This concept might aid the development of future adaptive strategies, supporting marine ecological planning for the mussel aquaculture industry in Chile.

Continue reading ‘Co-culture in marine farms: macroalgae can act as chemical refuge for shell-forming molluscs under an ocean acidification scenario’

Variation in the effects of ocean acidification on shell growth and strength in two intertidal gastropods

Many marine organisms rely on calcified hard parts to resist predation, and ocean acidification (OA) affects calcification negatively. However, calcification-related consequences may manifest in variable and/or cryptic ways across species. For example, shell strength is a primary defense for resisting shell-crushing predation, yet the consequences of OA on such biomechanical properties cannot be assessed visually. We exposed 2 species of intertidal gastropods common to the west coast of North America (the black turban snail Tegula funebralis and the striped dogwhelk Nucella ostrina) to OA (pH decreased by ~0.5 units) and predation cues for 6 mo, then measured both shell growth and strength. Shell growth in T. funebralis was significantly depressed under OA and in the presence of predation cues (declines of 83 and 63%, respectively). Shells produced by OA-exposed T. funebralis were also 50% weaker. In contrast, shell growth of N. ostrina was unaffected by OA, yet its shells were still 10% weaker. These findings highlight the potential for both different and easily overlooked responses of organisms to seawater acidification. Moreover, such results raise the possibility of ensuing shifts in consumption rates and rankings of prey items by shell-crushing predators, leading to shifts in the balance of species interactions in temperate shoreline communities.

Continue reading ‘Variation in the effects of ocean acidification on shell growth and strength in two intertidal gastropods’

Effects of long-term exposure to reduced pH conditions on the shell and survival of an intertidal gastropod


• Prolonged exposures to high pCO2 can severely affect Phorcus sauciatus shell.

• No effects of high pCO2 were found on size-frequency or population density of P. sauciatus.

• Shells from reduced pH sites exhibited a higher shell aspect ratio and greater percentages of shell dissolution and break.

• Shells from high pCO2 areas exhibited changes in mechanical strength.

• Similar desiccation tolerance was found among contrasting environment populations.


Volcanic CO2 vents are useful environments for investigating the biological responses of marine organisms to changing ocean conditions (Ocean acidification, OA). Marine shelled molluscs are highly sensitive to changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. In this study, we investigated the effects of reduced pH on the intertidal gastropod, Phorcus sauciatus, in a volcanic CO2 vent off La Palma Island (Canary Islands, North East Atlantic Ocean), a location with a natural pH gradient ranging from 7.0 to 8.2 over the tidal cycles. Density and size-frequency distribution, shell morphology, shell integrity, fracture resistance, and desiccation tolerance were evaluated between populations from control and CO2 vent sites. We found no effects of reduced pH on population parameters or desiccation tolerance across the pH gradient, but significant differences in shell morphology, shell integrity, and fracture resistance were detected. Individuals from the CO2 vent site exhibited a higher shell aspect ratio, greater percentages of shell dissolution and break, and compromised shell strength than those from the control site. Our results highlight that long-term exposure to high pCO2 can negatively affect the shell features of P. sauciatus but may not have a significant effect on population performance. Moreover, we suggest that loss of shell properties could lead to changes in predator-prey interactions.

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CO2 and HCl-induced seawater acidification impair the ingestion and digestion of blue mussel Mytilus edulis


1. The effect of two acidifying treatments, CO2 enrichment and HCl addition, on Mytilus edulis manifests different degrees of damage.

2. The effect of seawater acidification on mussels is not from a single factor (H+) but other action factors related to CO2.

3. Seawater acidification might inhibit the energy intake of mussels through interfering with the processes of ingestion and digestion.


Anthropogenic CO2 emissions lead to seawater acidification that reportedly exerts deleterious impacts on marine organisms, especially on calcifying organisms such as mussels. A 21-day experiment focusing on the impacts of seawater acidification on the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, was performed in this study, within which two acidifying treatments, CO2 enrichment and HCl addition, were applied. Two acidifying pH values (7.7 and 7.1) and the alteration of the key physiological processes of ingestion and digestion were estimated. To thoroughly investigate the impact of acidification on mussels, a histopathological study approach was adopted. The results showed that: (1) Seawater acidification induced either by CO2 enrichment or HCl addition impaired the gill structure. Transmission electron microscope (TEM) results suggested that the most obvious impacts were inflammatory lesions and edema, while more distinct alterations, including endoplasmic reticulum edema, nuclear condensation and chromatin plate-like condensation, were placed in the CO2-treated groups compared to HCl-treated specimens. The ciliary activity of the CO2 group was significantly inhibited simultaneously, leading to an obstacle in food intake. (2) Seawater acidification prominently damaged the structure of digestive glands, and the enzymatic activities of amylase, protease and lipase significantly decreased, which might indicate that the digestion was suppressed. The negative impacts induced by the CO2 group were more severe than that by the HCl group. The present results suggest that acidification interferes with the processes of ingestion and digestion, which potentially inhibits the energy intake of mussels.

Continue reading ‘CO2 and HCl-induced seawater acidification impair the ingestion and digestion of blue mussel Mytilus edulis’

Restoring the flat oyster Ostrea angasi in the face of a changing climate

Across the globe, restoration efforts are stemming the loss of native oyster reefs and the ecosystem services they provide, but these efforts will need to consider climate change in order to be sustainable. South-eastern Australia is the focus of restoring the once abundant oyster Ostrea angasi. This region is also a climate change ‘hot spot’ where the ocean is warming rapidly, with the potential to be exacerbated by marine heatwaves and coastal acidification. In this study, the impact of near-future (~2050) elevated temperature and pCO2 on O. angasi was determined and considered in context with concerns for the long-term sustainability of oyster reef restoration efforts. Oysters were exposed to ambient and elevated pCO2 concentrations (mean ± SE: 408 ± 19.8 and 1070 ± 53.4 µatm) and ambient and elevated temperatures (22.78 ± 0.17 and 25.73 ± 0.21°C) for 10 wk in outdoor flow-through mesocosms. Shell growth, condition index, standard metabolic rate (SMR), extracellular pH and survival were measured. Elevated temperature caused high mortality (36%) and decreased the condition of oysters (33%). Elevated pCO2 increased SMR almost 4-fold and lowered the extracellular pH of O. angasi by a mean 0.29 pH units. In combination, elevated pCO2 and temperature ameliorated effects on SMR and survivorship of oysters. O. angasi appears to be living near the limits of its thermal tolerance. Restoration projects will need to account for the temperature sensitivity of this species and its changing habitat to ‘climate proof’ long-term restoration efforts.

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Hypoxia aggravates the effects of ocean acidification on the physiological energetics of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis


• Combined effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia are investigated in mussels.

• Physiological activities of mussels are inhibited by low pH and hypoxia.

• OA and hypoxia exert additive effects on the physiological metabolism of mussels.


Apart from ocean acidification, hypoxia is another stressor to marine organisms, especially those in coastal waters. Their interactive effects of elevated CO2 and hypoxia on the physiological energetics in mussel Mytilus edulis were evaluated. Mussels were exposed to three pH levels (8.1, 7.7, 7.3) at two dissolved oxygen levels (6 and 2 mg L−1) and clearance rate, absorption efficiency, respiration rate, excretion rate, scope for growth and O: N ratio were measured during a14-day exposure. After exposure, all parameters (except excretion rate) were significantly reduced under low pH and hypoxic conditions, whereas excretion rate was significantly increased. Additive effects of low pH and hypoxia were evident for all parameters and low pH appeared to elicit a stronger effect than hypoxia (2.0 mg L−1). Overall, hypoxia can aggravate the effects of acidification on the physiological energetics of mussels, and their populations may be diminished by these stressors.

Continue reading ‘Hypoxia aggravates the effects of ocean acidification on the physiological energetics of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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