Posts Tagged 'morphology'

Paradise lost: end‐of‐century warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual emissions have severe consequences for symbiotic corals

Despite recent efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, current global emission trajectories are still following the business‐as‐usual RCP8.5 emission pathway. The resulting ocean warming and acidification have transformative impacts on coral reef ecosystems, detrimentally affecting coral physiology and health, and these impacts are predicted to worsen in the near future. In this study, we kept fragments of the symbiotic corals Acropora intermedia (thermally sensitive) and Porites lobata (thermally tolerant) for 7 weeks under an orthogonal design of predicted end‐of‐century RCP8.5 conditions for temperature and pCO2 (3.5 °C and 570 ppm above present‐day respectively) to unravel how temperature and acidification, individually or interactively, influence metabolic and physiological performance. Our results pinpoint thermal stress as the dominant driver of deteriorating health in both species because of its propensity to destabilize coral‐dinoflagellate symbiosis (bleaching). Acidification had no influence on metabolism but had a significant negative effect on skeleton growth, particularly when photosynthesis was absent such as in bleached corals or under dark conditions. Total loss of photosynthesis after bleaching caused an exhaustion of protein and lipid stores and collapse of calcification that ultimately led to A. intermedia mortality. Despite complete loss of symbionts from its tissue, P. lobata maintained small amounts of photosynthesis and experienced a weaker decline in lipid and protein reserves that presumably contributed to higher survival of this species. Our results indicate that ocean warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual CO2 emission scenarios will likely extirpate thermally‐sensitive coral species before the end of the century, while slowing the recovery of more thermally‐tolerant species from increasingly severe mass coral bleaching and mortality. This could ultimately lead to the gradual disappearance of tropical coral reefs globally, and a shift on surviving reefs to only the most resilient coral species.

Continue reading ‘Paradise lost: end‐of‐century warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual emissions have severe consequences for symbiotic corals’

Exoskeleton dissolution with mechanoreceptor damage in larval Dungeness crab related to severity of present-day ocean acidification vertical gradients


• Coastal habitats with the steepest ocean acidification gradients are most detrimental for larval Dungeness crabs.

• Severe carapace dissolution was observed in larval Dungeness crabs along the US west coast.

• Mechanoreceptors with important sensory and behavioral functions were destabilized.

• Dissolution is negatively related to the growth, demonstrating energetic trade-offs.

• 10% dissolution increase over the last two decades estimated due to atmospheric CO2.


Ocean acidification (OA) along the US West Coast is intensifying faster than observed in the global ocean. This is particularly true in nearshore regions (<200 m) that experience a lower buffering capacity while at the same time providing important habitats for ecologically and economically significant species. While the literature on the effects of OA from laboratory experiments is voluminous, there is little understanding of present-day OA in-situ effects on marine life. Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is perennially one of the most valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. We focused on establishing OA-related vulnerability of larval crustacean based on mineralogical and elemental carapace to external and internal carapace dissolution by using a combination of different methods ranging from scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, elemental mapping and X-ray diffraction. By integrating carapace features with the chemical observations and biogeochemical model hindcast, we identify the occurrence of external carapace dissolution related to the steepest Ω calcite gradients (∆Ωcal,60) in the water column. Dissolution features are observed across the carapace, pereopods (legs), and around the calcified areas surrounding neuritic canals of mechanoreceptors. The carapace dissolution is the most extensive in the coastal habitats under prolonged (1-month) long exposure, as demonstrated by the use of the model hindcast. Such dissolution has a potential to destabilize mechanoreceptors with important sensory and behavioral functions, a pathway of sensitivity to OA. Carapace dissolution is negatively related to crab larval width, demonstrating a basis for energetic trade-offs. Using a retrospective prediction from a regression models, we estimate an 8.3% increase in external carapace dissolution over the last two decades and identified a set of affected OA-related sublethal pathways to inform future risk assessment studies of Dungeness crabs.

Continue reading ‘Exoskeleton dissolution with mechanoreceptor damage in larval Dungeness crab related to severity of present-day ocean acidification vertical gradients’

A coralline alga gains tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure

Crustose coralline algae play a crucial role in the building of reefs in the photic zones of nearshore ecosystems globally, and are highly susceptible to ocean acidification. Nevertheless, the extent to which ecologically important crustose coralline algae can gain tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure is unknown. We show that, while calcification of juvenile crustose coralline algae is initially highly sensitive to ocean acidification, after six generations of exposure the effects of ocean acidification disappear. A reciprocal transplant experiment conducted on the seventh generation, where half of all replicates were interchanged across treatments, confirmed that they had acquired tolerance to low pH and not simply to laboratory conditions. Neither exposure to greater pH variability, nor chemical conditions within the micro-scale calcifying fluid internally, appeared to play a role in fostering this capacity. Our results demonstrate that reef-accreting taxa can gain tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure, suggesting that some of these cosmopolitan species could maintain their critical ecological role in reef formation.

Continue reading ‘A coralline alga gains tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure’

Climate shapes population variation in dogwhelk predation on foundational mussels

Trait variation among populations is important for shaping ecological dynamics. In marine intertidal systems, seawater temperature, low tide emersion temperature, and pH can drive variation in traits and affect species interactions. In western North America, Nucella dogwhelks are intertidal drilling predators of the habitat-forming mussel Mytilus californianus. Nucella exhibit local adaptation, but it is not known to what extent environmental factors and genetic structure contribute to variation in prey selectivity among populations. We surveyed drilled mussels at sites across Oregon and California, USA, and used multiple regression and Mantel tests to test the effects of abiotic factors and Nucella neutral genetic relatedness on the size of mussels drilled across sites. Our results show that Nucella at sites characterized by higher and less variable temperature and pH drilled larger mussels. Warmer temperatures appear to induce faster handling time, and more stable pH conditions may prolong opportunities for active foraging by reducing exposure to repeated stressful conditions. In contrast, there was no significant effect of genetic relatedness on prey size selectivity. Our results emphasize the role of climate in shaping marine predator selectivity on a foundation species. As coastal climates change, predator traits will respond to localized environmental conditions, changing ecological interactions.

Continue reading ‘Climate shapes population variation in dogwhelk predation on foundational mussels’

Dense Mytilus beds along freshwater-influenced Greenland shores: resistance to corrosive waters under high food supply

Arctic calcifiers are believed to be particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification as the Arctic already experiences low carbonate saturations states due to low temperature and high inputs of freshwater. Here, we report the finding of dense beds of Mytilus growing in tidal lagoons and river mouths, where the availability of carbonate ions is remarkably low Ωarag < 0.5. Although these Mytilus grow in the intertidal zone, and therefore are covered by seawater during high tide, δ18O isotopes of shell carbonate were low − 2.48 ± 0.05‰, confirming that their shells were deposited under low salinity conditions, i.e., reflecting a contribution from 18O-depleted freshwater. δ18O isotopes of shell carbonate became heavier with increasing salinity, with mean values of − 0.74 ± 0.96‰ for Mytilus growing in tidal pools. We calculated, based on δ18O isotopic composition standardized to a common temperature, that freshwater accounted for 7% of the carbonate oxygen in the shells of Mytilus at the habitats with near full-strength seawater salinity compared with 25% in shells collected at sites temporarily exposed to freshwater. The composition of the periostracum revealed a trend for shells from river mouths and brackish tidal lagoons to be more depleted in polysaccharides than shells exposed to higher salinity. We conclude that the high food supply associated with riverine discharge allows Mytilus to cope with the low saturation states by using energy to calcify and modify their periostracum to protect the shells from dissolution. These findings suggest that Arctic Mytilus are highly resistant to low saturation states of carbon minerals if supplied with sufficient food.

Continue reading ‘Dense Mytilus beds along freshwater-influenced Greenland shores: resistance to corrosive waters under high food supply’

Microscale pH and dissolved oxygen fluctuations within mussel aggregations and their implications for mussel attachment and raft aquaculture

Mussel mariculture uses the natural attachment strategy of marine mussels by allowing them to aggregate on submerged rope lines that are then pulled to the surface and harvested. Mussels attach to ropes using a network of byssal threads, proteinaceous fibers that adhere to surfaces underwater using a powerful biological glue (adhesive plaque). Plaques use the surrounding seawater as a molecular trigger during adhesive curing, a process that requires a pH greater than 7.0 and an abundance of dissolved oxygen to progress. To ascertain whether mussels experience seawater conditions that are potentially harmful to mussel attachment, this study measured the conditions within mussel aggregations at a mussel farm in Washington state and, then, applied those conditions to plaques to determine whether such conditions are sufficient to weaken attachment. Seawater monitoring demonstrated that mussels infrequently experience acidic (pH <5.0) and hypoxic excursions (O2 <2 mg L–1) in the summer, especially near the seafloor. When reproduced in laboratory assays, the most extreme pH excursions observed delayed plaque strengthening when applied early in the plaque-curing process, whereas extreme excursions in hypoxia decreased adhesion strength after the adhesive had fully matured. In either case, adhesion strength was rescued after reimmersion in open-ocean seawater conditions, highlighting the resilience of the mussel holdfast to stresses other than mechanical strain. The window of susceptibility to changes in environmental conditions during and after curing could contribute to fall-off events at mussel farms, especially in the late summer months.

Continue reading ‘Microscale pH and dissolved oxygen fluctuations within mussel aggregations and their implications for mussel attachment and raft aquaculture’

Aragonite pteropod abundance and preservation records from the Maldives, equatorial Indian Ocean: inferences on past oceanic carbonate saturation and dissolution events


• 1.2 Myr record of pteropod abundance/preservation variations from the Maldives

• Periods of enhanced ventilation during MIS 8, 3, 2 and MIS 14-13, 6-5 transitions

• MBDI marked by very poor preservation of pteropods during MIS 13 to 11

• Seawater carbonate chemistry plays a role in shell calcification.

• Glacial periods, MIS 16, 14, 6, 4, 2 are marked by larger and pristine shells.


During the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 359, a long continuous carbonate-rich sequence was recovered from the Inner Sea of Maldives. We investigated pteropod proxies (absolute abundance of pteropods species, total pteropods, epipelagic to mesopelagic ratio, fragmentation ratio, Limacina Dissolution Index (LDX), mean shell size variations of L. inflata) from Sites U1467 (water depth: 487 m) and U1468 (water depth: 521 m) to understand both surface and sub-surface paleoceanographic changes in the equatorial Indian Ocean and to improve our understanding of the factors responsible for pteropod preservation on longer timescales. A total of 15 species of pteropods were identified, and their downcore variations were documented from the core top to 707.49 mbsf in U1467 and from 447.4 to 846.92 mbsf in U1468. At the Site U1467, pteropod shells show high abundances/preservation up to a depth of 45 mbsf (~1.2 Ma), which is consistent with the presence of aragonite content in sediments (with the top 50 m bearing high aragonite content). Beyond 45 mbsf, only fragmented pteropod shells were seen down to 50 mbsf (corresponding to 1.5 Ma) followed by a total absence of pteropod shells and fragments from 50 mbsf (~1.5 Ma) to the end of the core at 846.92 mbsf (~24 Ma). A decrease in the SO42ˉconcentration and alkalinity in the interstitial fluid geochemistry is seen at these depths. The presence of dolomite content below 50 mbsf also indicates the alteration of aragonite into dolomite. Analyses of the carbonate preservation proxies reveal that the pteropods exhibit considerable fluctuation in abundance/preservation during the last 1.2 Myr. A good to moderate preservation (LDX: 2 to 3) is seen which correlates well with the fragmentation ratio but with an inverse relation with calcification rate. The proxies for in-life pteropod shell dissolution (average size of L. inflata and LDX) indicate that glacial periods (MIS 16, 14, 6, 4 and 2) have shown no signs of dissolution pointing better calcification under aragonite-saturated water column which is in good correlation with reduced atmospheric CO₂ concentration. Epipelagic/mesopelagic ratio indicates that the water column exhibited enhanced ventilation and mixing during glacial to interglacial periods, but intervals of intense stratification, a sign of poor ventilation or weakened circulation, was prevalent beyond MIS 14. The longest interval of poorest preservation was marked during MIS 11 and 13, which corresponds to the ‘Mid-Brunhes Dissolution Interval (MBDI).’ On a longer time scale, the abundances/preservation of pteropods in the Maldives seems to be controlled by changes in the seawater chemistry associated with monsoon productivity, water column ventilation, and atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Continue reading ‘Aragonite pteropod abundance and preservation records from the Maldives, equatorial Indian Ocean: inferences on past oceanic carbonate saturation and dissolution events’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book