Posts Tagged 'morphology'

Plastic responses of bryozoans to ocean acidification

Phenotypic plasticity has the potential to allow organisms to respond rapidly to global environmental change, but the range and effectiveness of these responses are poorly understood across taxa and growth strategies. Colonial organisms might be particularly resilient to environmental stressors, as organizational modularity and successive asexual generations can allow for distinctively flexible responses in the aggregate form. We performed laboratory experiments to examine the effects of increasing dissolved carbon dioxide (i.e. ocean acidification) on the colonial bryozoan Celleporella cornuta sampled from two source populations within a coastal upwelling region of the northern California coast. Bryozoan colonies were remarkably plastic under these carbon dioxide (CO2) treatments. Colonies raised under high CO2 grew more quickly, investing less in reproduction and producing lighter skeletons when compared to genetically identical clones raised under current atmospheric values. Bryozoans held in high CO2 conditions also changed the Mg/Ca ratio of skeletal calcite and increased the expression of organic coverings in new growth, which may serve as protection against acidified water. We also observed strong differences between populations in reproductive investment and organic covering reaction norms, consistent with adaptive responses to persistent spatial variation in local oceanographic conditions. Our results demonstrate that phenotypic plasticity and energetic trade-offs can mediate biological responses to global environmental change, and highlight the broad range of strategies available to colonial organisms.

Continue reading ‘Plastic responses of bryozoans to ocean acidification’

Transgenerational exposure of North Atlantic bivalves to ocean acidification renders offspring more vulnerable to low pH and additional stressors

While early life-stage marine bivalves are vulnerable to ocean acidification, effects over successive generations are poorly characterized. The objective of this work was to assess the transgenerational effects of ocean acidification on two species of North Atlantic bivalve shellfish, Mercenaria mercenaria and Argopecten irradians. Adults of both species were subjected to high and low pCO2 conditions during gametogenesis. Resultant larvae were exposed to low and ambient pH conditions in addition to multiple, additional stressors including thermal stress, food-limitation, and exposure to a harmful alga. There were no indications of transgenerational acclimation to ocean acidification during experiments. Offspring of elevated pCO2-treatment adults were significantly more vulnerable to acidification as well as the additional stressors. Our results suggest that clams and scallops are unlikely to acclimate to ocean acidification over short time scales and that as coastal oceans continue to acidify, negative effects on these populations may become compounded and more severe.

Continue reading ‘Transgenerational exposure of North Atlantic bivalves to ocean acidification renders offspring more vulnerable to low pH and additional stressors’

Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge

Excavating sponges are prominent bioeroders on coral reefs that in comparison to other benthic organisms may suffer less or may even benefit from warmer, more acidic and more eutrophic waters. Here, the photosymbiotic excavating sponge Cliona orientalis from the Great Barrier Reef was subjected to a prolonged simulation of both global and local environmental change: future seawater temperature, partial pressure of carbon dioxide (as for 2100 summer conditions under “business-as-usual” emissions), and diet supplementation with particulate organics. The individual and combined effects of the three factors on the bioerosion rates, metabolic oxygen and carbon flux, biomass change and survival of the sponge were monitored over the height of summer. Diet supplementation accelerated bioerosion rates. Acidification alone did not have a strong effect on total bioerosion or survival rates, yet it co-occurred with reduced heterotrophy. Warming above 30 °C (+2.7 °C above the local maximum monthly mean) caused extensive bleaching, lower bioerosion, and prevailing mortality, overriding the other factors and suggesting a strong metabolic dependence of the sponge on its resident symbionts. The growth, bioerosion capacity and likelihood of survival of C. orientalis and similar photosymbiotic excavating sponges could be substantially reduced rather than increased on end-of-the-century reefs under “business-as-usual” emission profiles.

Continue reading ‘Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge’

Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles

The proportion of body mass devoted to skeleton in marine invertebrates decreases along latitudinal gradients from large proportions in the tropics to small proportions in polar regions. A historical hypothesis—that latitudinal differences in shell production costs explain these trends—remains untested. Using field-collected specimens spanning a 79°N to 68°S latitudinal gradient (16,300 km), we conducted a taxonomically controlled evaluation of energetic costs of shell production as a proportion of the total energy budget in mollusks. Shell production cost was fairly low across latitudes at <10% of the energy budget and predominately <5% in gastropods and <4% in bivalves. Throughout life, shell cost tended to be lower in tropical species and increased slightly toward the poles. However, shell cost also varied with life stage, with the greatest costs found in young tropical gastropods. Low shell production costs on the energy budget suggest that shell cost may play only a small role in influencing proportional skeleton size gradients across latitudes relative to other ecological factors, such as predation in present-day oceans. However, any increase in the cost of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposition, including from ocean acidification, may lead to a projected ~50 to 70% increase in the proportion of the total energy budget required for shell production for a doubling of the CaCO3 deposition cost. Changes in energy budget allocation to shell cost would likely alter ecological trade-offs between calcification and other drivers, such as predation, in marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles’

Homarus gammarus (Crustacea: Decapoda) larvae under an ocean acidification scenario: responses across different levels of biological organization

The present study evaluated the effects of exposure to different target pCO2 levels: control (C: 370μatm, pH = 8.15) and ocean acidification (OA: 710μatm, pH = 7.85) on development and biochemical responses related with oxidative stress and energy metabolism during the crustacean Homarus gammarus (L.) larval development, integrating different levels of biological organization. After hatching in the laboratory, larvae from the same female brood were exposed to the described conditions from hatching until reaching Stage III (last larval stage – 11 days). H. gammarus larvae demonstrated some susceptibility when addressing the predicted pCO2 levels for 2100. Further analysis at the biochemical and physiological level highlighted the occurrence of oxidative stress in the OA scenario (Superoxide Dismutase reduction and higher DNA damage) that was followed by developmental effects, increased inter-moult period from SII to SIII and reduced growth. The extended exposure to these conditions may affect organisms’ key life-cycle functions such as physiological resistance, growth, sexual maturation, or reproduction with implications in their future fitness and population dynamics.

Continue reading ‘Homarus gammarus (Crustacea: Decapoda) larvae under an ocean acidification scenario: responses across different levels of biological organization’

Divergent responses in growth and nutritional quality of coastal macroalgae to the combination of increased pCO2 and nutrients


  • Growth rates and tissue quality of two common macroalgal species were assessed under conditions of high pCO2 and nutrient loading under monoculture and biculture.
  • Ephemeral macroalgae exhibited significant increases in growth under high pCO2 and high nutrients.
  • Growth rates of perennial macroalgae were unaffected by environmental treatments.
  • Tissue quality of both species increased via decreases in C:N when nutrients were increased.
  • Biculture appears to impact resource acquisition of perennial macroalgae as evidence of higher tissue C:N when compared to monoculture tissue.


Coastal ecosystems are subjected to global and local environmental stressors, including increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) (and subsequent ocean acidification) and nutrient loading. Here, we tested how two common macroalgal species in the Northwest Atlantic (Ulva spp. and Fucus vesiculosus Linneaus) respond to the combination of increased CO2 and nutrient loading. We utilized two levels of pCO2 with two levels of nutrients in a full factorial design, testing the growth rates and tissue quality of Ulva and Fucus grown for 21 days in monoculture and biculture. We found that the opportunistic, fast-growing Ulva exhibited increased growth rates under high pCO2 and high nutrients, with growth rates increasing three-fold above Ulva grown in ambient pCO2 and ambient nutrients. By contrast, Fucus growth rates were not impacted by either environmental factor. Both species exhibited a decline in carbon to nitrogen ratios (C:N) with elevated nutrients, but pCO2 concentration did not alter tissue quality in either species. Species grown in biculture exhibited similar growth rates to those in monoculture conditions, but Fucus C:N increased significantly when grown with Ulva, indicating an effect of the presence of Ulva on Fucus. Our results suggest that the combination of ocean acidification and nutrients will enhance abundance of opportunistic algal species in coastal systems and will likely drive macroalgal community shifts, based on species-specific responses to future conditions.

Continue reading ‘Divergent responses in growth and nutritional quality of coastal macroalgae to the combination of increased pCO2 and nutrients’

Effect of CO2 on growth and toxicity of Alexandrium tamarense from the East China Sea, a major producer of paralytic shellfish toxins


  • Strain of Alexandrium tamarense isolated from East China Seas, showed a significant response to elevated CO2 levels in growth and toxicity.
  • Strain ATDH grew faster and showed a larger density when exposed to elevated CO2 concentration, especially in the exponential period.
  • The concentration per cell of each PST derivate varied and eventually caused the cellular toxicity increased when exposed to higher pCO2.


In recent decades, the frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms (HABs), as well as a profusion of toxic phytoplankton species, have significantly increased in coastal regions of China. Researchers attribute this to environmental changes such as rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Such addition of carbon into the ocean ecosystem can lead to increased growth, enhanced metabolism, and altered toxicity of toxic phytoplankton communities resulting in serious human health concerns. In this study, the effects of elevated partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) on the growth and toxicity of a strain of Alexandrium tamarense (ATDH) widespread in the East and South China Seas were investigated. Results of these studies showed a higher specific growth rate (0.31 ± 0.05 day−1) when exposed to 1000 μatm CO2, (experimental), with a corresponding density of (2.02 ± 0.19) × 107 cells L−1, that was significantly larger than cells under 395 μatm CO2(control). These data also revealed that elevated pCO2 primarily affected the photosynthetic properties of cells in the exponential growth phase. Interestingly, measurement of the total toxin content per cell was reduced by half under elevated CO2 conditions. The following individual toxins were measured in this study: C1, C2, GTX1, GTX2, GTX3, GTX4, GTX5, STX, dcGTX2, dcGTX3, and dcSTX. Cells grown in 1000 μatm CO2 showed an overall decrease in the cellular concentrations of C1, C2, GTX2, GTX3, GTX5, STX, dcGTX2, dcGTX3, and dcSTX, but an increase in GTX1 and GTX4. Total cellular toxicity per cell was measured revealing an increase of nearly 60% toxicity in the presence of elevated CO2 compared to controls. This unusual result was attributed to a significant increase in the cellular concentrations of the more toxic derivatives, GTX1 and GTX4.Taken together; these findings indicate that the A. tamarense strain ATDH isolated from the East China Sea significantly increased in growth and cellular toxicity under elevated pCO2 levels. These data may provide vital information regarding future HABs and the corresponding harmful effects as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2.

Continue reading ‘Effect of CO2 on growth and toxicity of Alexandrium tamarense from the East China Sea, a major producer of paralytic shellfish toxins’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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