Posts Tagged 'morphology'

Recoverable impacts of ocean acidification on the tubeworm, Hydroides elegans: implication for biofouling in future coastal oceans

Ocean uptake of anthropogenic CO2 causes ocean acidification (OA), which not only decreases the calcification rate, but also impairs the formation of calcareous shells or tubes in marine invertebrates such as the dominant biofouling tubeworm species, Hydroides elegans. This study examined the ability of tubeworms to resume normal tube calcification when returned to ambient pH 8.1 from a projected near-future OA level of pH 7.8. Tubeworms produced structurally impaired and mechanically weaker calcareous tubes at pH 7.8 compared to at pH 8.1, but were able to recover when the pH was restored to ambient levels. This suggests that tubeworms can physiologically recover from the impacts of OA on tube calcification, composition, density, hardness and stiffness when returned to optimal conditions. These results help understanding of the progression of biofouling communities dominated by tubeworms in future oceans with low pH induced by OA.

Continue reading ‘Recoverable impacts of ocean acidification on the tubeworm, Hydroides elegans: implication for biofouling in future coastal oceans’

Late Quaternary coccolith weight variations in the northern South China Sea and their environmental controls


• High-resolution records of coccolith weights in the South China Sea.

• Different coccolithophore species show different variations in calcification.

•Coccolithophore calcification in nature is supposed to be affected by multiple factors.


Coccolithophores are one of the most abundant and widespread groups of calcifying plankton and have attracted extensive study in terms of their likely response to ocean acidification. Conflicting results concerning coccolithophore calcification have been reported from both experimental and field studies. Due to their minute size, it is difficult to estimate the amount of calcite in coccoliths. Here we apply the SYRACO system to analyzing the weights and lengths of coccoliths produced by the dominant coccolithophore family Noëlaerhabdaceae. We obtain high-resolution coccolith weight and length records of GEO (Gephyrocapsa oceanica) and SPC (Emiliania huxleyi and small Gephyrocapsa spp.) groups from sediment core MD05-2904 in the northern South China Sea (SCS) over the past 200 kyr. A calcification index (CI) based on the coccolith weight and length is applied to evaluate the changes in coccolithophore calcification. The two groups of coccolith weights / CIs show different patterns on long term variations and during the last two terminations. We compare the coccolith weight and CI records with the environmental variables and carbonate chemistry parameters calculated in the same core. Our data reveals that sea surface temperature and insolation have weak correlations to coccolith weight and CI on long-term variations. The SPC weight / CI are correlated with the seawater pH and pCO2 variations while the GEO weight/ CI are more related to the nutrient variations. This imply a more significant role of ocean carbonate chemistry in the calcification of less calcified coccolithophores and nutrient concentration in the heavier calcifying coccolighophores.

Continue reading ‘Late Quaternary coccolith weight variations in the northern South China Sea and their environmental controls’

Season affects strength and direction of the interactive impacts of ocean warming and biotic stress in a coastal seaweed ecosystem

The plea for using more “realistic,” community‐level, investigations to assess the ecological impacts of global change has recently intensified. Such experiments are typically more complex, longer, more expensive, and harder to interpret than simple organism‐level benchtop experiments. Are they worth the extra effort? Using outdoor mesocosms, we investigated the effects of ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA), their combination (OAW), and their natural fluctuations on coastal communities of the western Baltic Sea during all four seasons. These communities are dominated by the perennial and canopy‐forming macrophyte Fucus vesiculosus—an important ecosystem engineer Baltic‐wide. We, additionally, assessed the direct response of organisms to temperature and pH in benchtop experiments, and examined how well organism‐level responses can predict community‐level responses to the dominant driver, OW. OW affected the mesocosm communities substantially stronger than acidification. OW provoked structural and functional shifts in the community that differed in strength and direction among seasons. The organism‐level response to OW matched well the community‐level response of a given species only under warm and cold thermal stress, that is, in summer and winter. In other seasons, shifts in biotic interactions masked the direct OW effects. The combination of direct OW effects and OW‐driven shifts of biotic interactions is likely to jeopardize the future of the habitat‐forming macroalga F. vesiculosus in the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, we conclude that seasonal mesocosm experiments are essential for our understanding of global change impact because they take into account the important fluctuations of abiotic and biotic pressures.

Continue reading ‘Season affects strength and direction of the interactive impacts of ocean warming and biotic stress in a coastal seaweed ecosystem’

The effects of long-term exposure to low pH on the skeletal microstructure of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma


• Ocean acidification increases porosity in the sea urchin skeleton.

• Less biomineral is produced.

• Skeleton hardness and elasticity reduced in near future acidification.

• No skeletal etching in near future acidification conditions.


Anthropogenic CO2 – driven ocean acidification (OA) is causing a decrease in seawater pH and the saturation state of calcium carbonate minerals, compromising the ability of calcifying species to produce and maintain their skeletons. Sea urchins are ecologically important calcifying species and we investigated the impacts of long-term (9 month) exposure to near-future OA (Ambient – pHNBS 8.01; OA – pHNBS 7.6) on the skeleton microstructure of Heliocidaris erythrogramma using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), micro-computed tomography (μCT) and nanoindentation. SEM revealed that the youngest plates (apical plates) which had likely grown in experimental conditions had larger pores in the OA group (pore surface area ~ 72% larger) compared with those of urchins maintained in ambient pH. High-resolution, μCT 3-D reconstructions of the apical plates revealed that the experimental OA treatment urchins had a ~14% greater porosity and ~17% less biomineral, suggesting an inability to finely regulate skeletogenesis. The mid-test ambital plates established prior to this study did not show any OA associated change in porosity. Nanoindentation of the apical plates indicated that OA reduced skeletal hardness and elasticity. Stereom pore size is a key trait of the sea urchin endoskeleton and increased porosity in H. erythrogramma is likely to impact its biological functions as well as its biomechanical capacity to defend against predation and physical disturbances.

Continue reading ‘The effects of long-term exposure to low pH on the skeletal microstructure of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma’

Antioxidant responses of triangle sail mussel Hyriopsis cumingii exposed to harmful algae Microcystis aeruginosa and high pH


• The comprehensive effects of toxic cyanobacteria and high pH on mussels were assessed.

• Interaction between cyanobacteria and high pH on physiological indicator were found.

• Compare to high pH, toxic M. aeruginosa induce more severe oxidative stress response.

• Toxic algae or high pH exposure history showed latent effects on Hyriopsis cumingii.


In lakes and reservoirs, harmful algal blooms and high pH have been deemed to be two important stressors related to eutrophication, especially in the case of CO2 depletion caused by dense blooms. However, the effects of these stressors on the economically important shellfish that inhabit these waters are still not well-understood. This study evaluated the combined effects of the harmful algae Microcystis aeruginosa (0%, 50%, and 100% of total dietary dry weight) and high pH (8.0, 8.5 and 9.0) on the antioxidant responses of the triangle sail mussel H. cumingii. The mussels were exposed to algae and high pH for 14 d, followed by a 7-day depuration period. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mussel hemolymph, antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes, such as glutathione-S-transferase (GST), glutathione (GSH), superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and malondialdehyde (MDA) in the digestive glands were analyzed during the experimental period. GST, SOD and GPx activity levels and the content of GSH increased following exposure to toxic M. aeruginosa, whereas CAT activity was inhibited. pH showed no significant effects on the immune defense mechanisms and detoxification processes. However, a high pH could cause increased ROS and MDA levels, resulting in oxidative injury. After a 7-day depuration period, exposure to toxic M. aeruginosa or high pH resulted in latent effects for most of the examined parameters. The treatment group exposed to the highest pH (9.0) displayed an increased oxidation state compared with the other pH treatments (8.0 and 8.5) for the same concentrations of toxic M. aeruginosa. The trends observed for ROS, MDA, GPx, GST, SOD and GSH levels indicated that a high density of toxic algae could result in severe and continuous effects on mussel health.

Continue reading ‘Antioxidant responses of triangle sail mussel Hyriopsis cumingii exposed to harmful algae Microcystis aeruginosa and high pH’

Investigating the response of sea urchin early developmental stages to multiple stressors related to climate change

Within climate change biology, the red sea urchin Mesocentrotus franciscanus has
remained relatively overlooked despite its sizeable ecological and economic importance, particularly within the context of multi-stressor effects. I assembled and described a developmental transcriptome for M. franciscanus, providing a useful molecular resource with which to study this organism. I then examined both the physiological and molecular mechanisms that underlie the response of early developmental stage (EDS) M. franciscanus to different combinations of pH levels and temperatures that represented ecologically
relevant present and future ocean conditions. Elevated pCO2 levels decreased embryo body size, but at the prism embryo stage, warmer temperatures helped to offset this via an increase in body size. Warmer temperatures also slightly increased the thermal tolerance of prism stage embryos. Neither pCO2 nor temperature stressors affected prism metabolic rate as measured by rate of oxygen consumption. Gene expression patterns differed by developmental stage and by temperature exposure. Elevated temperatures led to an upregulation of cellular stress response genes. Under colder temperatures, the embryos
exhibited an up-regulation of epigenetic genes related to histone modifications.
There was a comparatively minimal transcriptomic response to different pCO2 levels. Examining the physiological and molecular responses of EDS M. franciscanus to multiple stressors provided much needed information regarding a species of significant ecological and economic value by examining its capacity to respond to stressors related to climate change and ocean acidification under an ecologically relevant context.

I also investigated the role of transgenerational plasticity (TGP), in which the
environmental conditions experienced by parents affect progeny phenotypes. TGP may provide a valuable mechanism by which organisms can keep pace with relatively rapid environmental change. Adult S. purpuratus were conditioned to two divergent, but ecologically relevant pH levels and temperatures throughout gametogenesis. The adults were spawned and crossed, and their progeny were raised under different pH levels to determine if maternal conditioning impacted the response of the progeny to low pH stress. I investigated maternal provisioning, a mechanism of TGP, by measuring the size, total protein content, and total lipid content of the eggs that they produced. Acclimatization of the
adult urchins to simulated upwelling conditions (combined low pH, low temperature) appeared to increase maternal provisioning of lipids to the eggs but did not affect egg size or protein content. I also investigated the physiology and gene expression of progeny responding to low pH stress, which were affected more by maternal conditioning than by offspring pH treatment. Maternal conditioning to simulated upwelling resulted in larger offspring body sizes. Additionally, I found the progeny expressed differential regulatory
patterns of genes related to epigenetic modifications, ion transport, metabolic processes and ATP production. This work showed that adult exposure to upwelling conditions can improve the resilience of EDS progeny to low pH levels.

Continue reading ‘Investigating the response of sea urchin early developmental stages to multiple stressors related to climate change’

Impact of ocean acidification and warming on mitochondrial enzymes and membrane lipids in two Gadoid species

Mitochondrial respiration is a multi-step pathway that involves matrix and membrane-associated enzymes and plays a key role in acclimation to variable environmental conditions, but until now it has not been clear which of these steps would be most important in acclimation to changing temperatures and CO2 levels. Considering scenarios of ocean warming and acidification we assessed the role and limitation to phenotypic plasticity in the hearts of two Gadoid species adapted to different thermal ranges: the polar cod (Boreogadus saida), an Arctic stenotherm, and the Northeast Arctic population of Atlantic cod (NEAC, Gadus morhua), a cold eurytherm. We analysed the capacity of single enzymes involved in mitochondrial respiration [citrate synthase (CS), succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), cytochrome c oxidase (CCO)], the capacity of the electron transport system and the lipid class composition of the cellular membranes. Juveniles of the two species were held for four months at four temperatures (0, 3, 6, 8 °C for polar cod and 3, 8, 12, 16 °C for NEAC), at both ambient and elevated PCO2 (400 µatm and 1170 µatm, respectively). Polar cod showed no changes in mitochondrial enzyme capacities and in the relative lipid class composition in response to altered temperature or elevated PCO2. The lack of cardiac cellular plasticity together with evidence at the whole-animal level coming from other studies is indicative of little or no ability to overcome stenothermy, in particular during acclimation to 8 °C. In contrast, eurythermal NEAC exhibited modifications of membrane composition towards a more rigid structure and altered enzyme capacities to preserve functionality at higher temperatures. Furthermore, in NEAC, the capacities of SDH, CCO and CS were increased by high levels of CO2 if combined with high temperatures (12 and 16 °C), suggesting the compensation of an inhibitory effect. These results indicate that the cold eurythermal species (NEAC) is able to alter its mitochondrial function to a far greater extent than the Arctic stenotherm (polar cod), indicating greater resilience to variable environmental conditions. This difference in plasticity may underpin differences in the resilience to climate change and affect future species distributions and, eventually, survival.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification and warming on mitochondrial enzymes and membrane lipids in two Gadoid species’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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