Posts Tagged 'morphology'

Pteropods make thinner shells in the upwelling region of the California Current ecosystem

Shelled pteropods are widely regarded as bioindicators for ocean acidification, because their fragile aragonite shells are susceptible to increasing ocean acidity. While short-term incubations have demonstrated that pteropod calcification is negatively impacted by ocean acidification, we know little about net calcification in response to varying ocean conditions in natural populations. Here, we examine in situ calcification of Limacina helicina pteropods collected from the California Current Ecosystem, a coastal upwelling system with strong spatial gradients in ocean carbonate chemistry, dissolved oxygen and temperature. Depth-averaged pH ranged from 8.03 in warmer offshore waters to 7.77 in cold CO2-rich waters nearshore. Based on high-resolution micro-CT technology, we showed that shell thickness declined by ~ 37% along the upwelling gradient from offshore to nearshore water. Dissolution marks covered only ~ 2% of the shell surface area and were not associated with the observed variation in shell thickness. We thus infer that pteropods make thinner shells where upwelling brings more acidified and colder waters to the surface. Probably the thinner shells do not result from enhanced dissolution, but are due to a decline in calcification. Reduced calcification of pteropods is likely to have major ecological and biogeochemical implications for the cycling of calcium carbonate in the oceans.

Continue reading ‘Pteropods make thinner shells in the upwelling region of the California Current ecosystem’

Shell mineralogy of a foundational marine species, Mytilus californianus, over half a century in a changing ocean

Anthropogenic warming and ocean acidification are predicted to negatively affect marine calcifiers. While negative effects of these stressors on physiology and shell calcification have been documented in many species, their effects on shell mineralogical composition remains poorly known, especially over longer time periods. Here, we quantify changes in the shell mineralogy of a foundation species, Mytilus californianus, under 60 y of ocean warming and acidification. Using historical data as a baseline and a resampling of present-day populations, we document a substantial increase in shell calcite and decrease in aragonite. These results indicate that ocean pH and saturation state, not temperature or salinity, play a strong role in mediating the shell mineralogy of this species and reveal long-term changes in this trait under ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Shell mineralogy of a foundational marine species, Mytilus californianus, over half a century in a changing ocean’

Abundances and morphotypes of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi in southern Patagonia compared to neighboring oceans and northern-hemisphere fjords

Coccolithophores are potentially affected by ongoing ocean acidification, where rising CO2 lowers seawater pH and calcite saturation state (Ωcal). Southern Patagonian fjords and channels provide natural laboratories for studying these issues due to high variability in physical and chemical conditions. We surveyed coccolithophore assemblages in Patagonian fjords during late-spring 2015 and early-spring 2017. Surface Ωcal exhibited large variations driven mostly by freshwater inputs. High Ωcal conditions (max. 3.6) occurred in the Archipelago Madre de Dios. Ωcal ranged from 2.0–2.6 in the western Strait of Magellan, 1.5–2.2 in the Inner Channel, and was sub-saturating (0.5) in Skyring Sound. Emiliania huxleyi was the only coccolithophore widely distributed in Patagonian fjords (> 96 % of total coccolitophores), only disappearing in the Skyring Sound, a semi-closed mesohaline system. Correspondence analysis associated higher E. huxleyi biomasses with lower diatom biomasses. The highest E. huxleyi abundances in Patagonia were in the lower range of those reported in Norwegian fjords. Predominant morphotypes were distinct from those previously documented in nearby oceans but similar to those of Norwegian fjords. Moderate-calcified forms of E. huxleyi A morphotype were uniformly distributed throughout Patagonia fjords. The exceptional R/hyper-calcified coccoliths, associated with low Ωcal values in Chilean and Peruvian coastal upwellings, were a minor component associated with high Ωcal levels in Patagonia. Outlying mean index (OMI) niche analysis suggested that pH/Ωcal conditions explained most variation in the realized niches of E. huxleyi morphotypes. The moderate-calcified A morphotype exhibited the widest niche-breadth (generalist), while the R/hyper-calcified morphotype exhibited a more restricted realized niche (specialist). Nevertheless, when considering an expanded sampling domain, including nearby Southeast Pacific coastal and offshore waters, even the R/hyper-calcified morphotype exhibited a higher niche breadth than other closely phylogenetically-related coccolithophore species. The occurrence of E. huxleyi in naturally low pH/Ωcal environments indicates that its ecological response is plastic and capable of adaptation.

Continue reading ‘Abundances and morphotypes of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi in southern Patagonia compared to neighboring oceans and northern-hemisphere fjords’

Ocean acidification alters properties of the exoskeleton in adult tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi

Ocean acidification can affect the ability of calcifying organisms to build and maintain mineralized tissue. In decapod crustaceans, the exoskeleton is a multilayered structure composed of chitin, protein, and mineral, predominately magnesian calcite or amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC). We investigated the effects of acidification on the exoskeleton of mature (post-terminal-molt) female southern Tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi. Crabs were exposed to one of three pH levels—8.1, 7.8, or 7.5—for two years. Reduced pH led to a suite of body-region-specific effects on the exoskeleton. Microhardness of the claw was 38% lower in crabs at pH 7.5 compared with those at pH 8.1, but carapace microhardness was unaffected by pH. In contrast, reduced pH altered elemental content in the carapace (reduced calcium, increased magnesium), but not the claw. Diminished structural integrity and thinning of the exoskeleton was observed at reduced pH in both body regions; internal erosion of the carapace was present in most crabs at pH 7.5, and the claws of these crabs showed substantial external erosion, with tooth-like denticles nearly or completely worn away. Using infrared spectroscopy, we observed a shift in the phase of calcium carbonate present in the carapace of pH-7.5 crabs: a mix of ACC and calcite was found in the carapace of crabs at pH 8.1, whereas the bulk of calcium carbonate had transformed to calcite in pH-7.5 crabs. With limited capacity for repair, the exoskeleton of long-lived crabs that undergo a terminal molt, such as Cbairdi, may be especially susceptible to ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters properties of the exoskeleton in adult tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi’

Acidification stress effect on umbonate veliger larval development in Panopea globosa


  • The pH significantly influenced the biometric variables in Panopea globosa larvae.
  • Larvae exposed to lower pH showed shell dissolution at the umbo level.
  • The metabolic rate was higher in larvae exposed to acidification compared to the control.
  • Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase expression levels to pH 7.5 suggest a higher energy requirement.


Ocean acidification generates a decrease in calcium carbonate availability essential for biomineralization in organisms such as mollusks. This effect was evaluated on Panopea globosa exposing for 7 days umbonate veliger larvae to two pH treatments: experimental (pH 7.5) and control (pH 8.0). Exposure to pH 7.5 affected growth, reducing larval shell length from 5.15–13.34% compared to the control group. This size reduction was confirmed with electron microscopy, also showing shell damage. The physiological response showed an increase in oxygen consumption in larvae exposed to low pH with a maximum difference of 1.57 nmol O2 h−1 larvae−1 at day 7. The gene expression analyses reported high expression values for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) dehydrogenase and Perlucin in larvae at pH 7.5, suggesting a higher energetic cost in this larval group to maintain homeostasis. In conclusion, this study showed that acidification affected development of P. globosa umbonate veliger larvae.

Continue reading ‘Acidification stress effect on umbonate veliger larval development in Panopea globosa’

Animal size and sea water temperature, but not pH, influence a repeatable startle response behavior in a wide-ranging marine mollusc


  • We measured startle response (time to open) in mussels following a predator cue.
  • We tested effects of temperature, pH and size and measured repeatability.
  • Larger mussels opened faster; repeatable startle response; evidence of habituation.
  • High temperature increased time to open; no effect of pH.
  • Blue mussels are sensitive to temperature and vulnerable to climate change.


Startle response behaviours are important in predator avoidance and escape for a wide array of animals. For many marine invertebrates, however, startle response behaviours are understudied, and the effects of global change stressors on these responses are unknown. We exposed two size classes of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis × trossulus) to different combinations of temperature (15 and 19 °C) and pH (8.2 and 7.5 pHT) for 3 months and subsequently measured individual time to open following a tactile predator cue (i.e. startle response time) over a series of four consecutive trials. Time to open was highly repeatable in the short term and decreased linearly across the four trials. Individuals from the larger size class had a shorter time to open than their smaller-sized counterparts. High temperature increased time to open compared to low temperature, while pH had no effect. These results suggest that bivalve time to open is repeatable, related to relative vulnerability to predation and affected by temperature. Given that increased closure times impact feeding and respiration, the effect of temperature on closure duration may play a role in the sensitivity to ocean warming in this species and contribute to ecosystem level effects.

Continue reading ‘Animal size and sea water temperature, but not pH, influence a repeatable startle response behavior in a wide-ranging marine mollusc’

Life-long coral skeletal acclimatization at CO2 vents in Papua New Guinea reveals species- and environment-specific effects

The responses of corals and other marine calcifying organisms to ocean acidification (OA) are variable and span from no effect to severe responses. Here we investigated the effect of long-term exposure to OA on skeletal parameters of four tropical zooxanthellate corals living at two CO2 vents in Papua New Guinea, namely in Dobu and Upa Upasina. The skeletal porosity of Galaxea fascicularisAcropora millepora, and Pocillopora damicornis was higher (from 17% to 38%, depending on the species) at the seep site compared to the control only at Upa Upasina. Massive Porites showed no differences at any of the locations. Pocillopora damicornis also showed a ~ 7% decrease of micro-density and an increase of the volume fraction of the larger pores, a decrease of the intraskeletal organic matrix content with an increase of the intraskeletal water content, and no variation in the organic matrix related strain and crystallite size. The fact that the skeletal parameters varied only at one of the two seep sites suggests that other local environmental conditions interact with OA to modify the coral skeletal parameters. This might also contribute to explain the great deal of responses to OA reported for corals and other marine calcifying organisms.

Continue reading ‘Life-long coral skeletal acclimatization at CO2 vents in Papua New Guinea reveals species- and environment-specific effects’

Evaluating bloom potential of the green-tide forming alga Ulva ohnoi under ocean acidification and warming


Mesocosm was conducted to evaluate bloom potential of U. ohnoi in the future ocean.

Bloom potential was higher in ocean acidification with improved C and N metabolism.

Positive metabolic change in ocean acidification were offset by elevated temperature.

The bloom potential decreases when acidification and warming are combined.


The occurrence of green-tides, whose bloom potential may be increased by various human activities and biogeochemical process, results in enormous economic losses and ecosystem collapse. In this study, we investigated the ecophysiology of the subtropical green-tide forming alga, Ulva ohnoi complex (hereafter: U. ohnoi), under simulated future ocean conditions in order to predict its bloom potential using photosynthesis and growth measurements, and stable isotope analyses. Our mesocosm system included four experimental conditions that simulated the individual and combined effects of elevated CO2 and temperature, namely control (450 μatm CO2 & 20oC), acidification (900 μatm CO2 & 20oC), warming (450 μatm CO2 & 25oC), and greenhouse (900 μatm CO2 & 25oC). Photosynthetic electron transport rates (rETR) increased significantly under acidification conditions, but net photosynthesis and growth were not affected. In contrast, rETR, net photosynthesis, and growth all decreased significantly under elevated temperature conditions (i.e. both warming and greenhouse). These results represent the imbalance of energy metabolism between electron transport and O2 production that may be expected under ocean acidification conditions. This imbalance appears to be related to carbon and nitrogen assimilation by U. ohnoi. In particular, 13C and 15N discrimination data suggest U. ohnoi prefers CO2 and NH4+ over HCO3 and NO3 as sources of carbon and nitrogen, respectively, and this results in increased N content in the thallus under ocean acidification conditions. Together, our results suggest a trade-off in which the bloom potential of U. ohnoi could increase under ocean acidification due to greater N accumulation and through the saving of energy during carbon and nitrogen metabolism, but that elevated temperatures could decrease U. ohnoi’s bloom potential through a decrease in photosynthesis and growth.

Continue reading ‘Evaluating bloom potential of the green-tide forming alga Ulva ohnoi under ocean acidification and warming’

Effects of experimental ocean acidification on the larval morphology and metabolism of a temperate Sparid, Chrysoblephus laticeps

Ocean acidification is predicted to have widespread impacts on marine species. The early life stages of fishes, being particularly sensitive to environmental deviations, represent a critical bottleneck to recruitment. We investigated the effects of ocean acidification (∆pH = −0.4) on the oxygen consumption and morphometry during the early ontogeny of a commercially important seabream, Chrysoblephus laticeps, up until flexion. Hatchlings appeared to be tolerant to hypercapnic conditions, exhibiting no difference in oxygen consumption or morphometry between treatments, although the yolk reserves were marginally reduced in the low-pH treatment. The preflexion stages appeared to undergo metabolic depression, exhibiting lower metabolic rates along with lower growth metrics in hypercapnic conditions. However, although the sample sizes were low, the flexion-stage larvae exhibited greater rates of metabolic and growth metric increases in hypercapnic conditions. This study shows that the effects of OA may be stage specific during early ontogeny and potentially related to the development of crucial organs, such as the gills. Future studies investigating the effects of climate change on fish larvae should endeavour to include multiple developmental stages in order to make more accurate predictions on recruitment dynamics for the coming decades.

Continue reading ‘Effects of experimental ocean acidification on the larval morphology and metabolism of a temperate Sparid, Chrysoblephus laticeps’

Juvenile Eastern oysters more resilient to extreme ocean acidification than their mud crab predators

Ocean acidification is predicted to impair marine calcifiers’ abilities to produce shells and skeletons. We conducted laboratory experiments investigating the impacts of CO2‐induced ocean acidification (pCO2 = 478 – 519, 734 – 835, 8980 – 9567; Ωcalcite = 7.3 – 5.7, 5.6 – 4.3, 0.6 – 0.7) on calcification rates of two estuarine calcifiers involved in a classic predator‐prey model system: adult Panopeus herbstii (Atlantic mud crab) and juvenile Crassostrea virginica (eastern oyster). Both oyster and crab calcification rates significantly decreased at the highest pCO2 level. Notably, however, oysters maintained positive net calcification rates in the highest pCO2 treatment that was undersaturated with respect to calcite, while mud crabs exhibited net dissolution (i.e., net loss of shell mass) in calcite‐undersaturated conditions. Secondary electron imaging of oyster shells revealed minor microstructural alterations in the moderate‐pCO2 treatment, and major micro‐ and macro‐structural changes (including shell dissolution, delamination of periostracum) in the high‐pCO2 treatment. These results underscore the threat that ocean acidification poses for marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells, illustrate the strong biological control that some marine calcifiers exert over their shell‐building process, and shows that ocean acidification differentially impacts the crab and oyster species involved in this classical predator‐prey model system.

Continue reading ‘Juvenile Eastern oysters more resilient to extreme ocean acidification than their mud crab predators’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book