Posts Tagged 'North Atlantic'

General DNA methylation patterns and environmentally-induced differential methylation in the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)

Epigenetic modification, specifically DNA methylation, is one possible mechanism for intergenerational plasticity. Before inheritance of methylation patterns can be characterized, we need a better understanding of how environmental change modifies the parental epigenome. To examine the influence of experimental ocean acidification on eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) gonad tissue, oysters were cultured in the laboratory under control (491 ± 49 μatm) or high (2550 ± 211 μatm) pCO2 conditions for 4 weeks. DNA from reproductive tissue was isolated from five oysters per treatment, then subjected to bisulfite treatment and DNA sequencing. Irrespective of treatment, DNA methylation was primarily found in gene bodies with approximately 22% of CpGs (2.7% of total cytosines) in the C. virginica genome predicted to be methylated. In response to elevated pCO2, we found 598 differentially methylated loci primarily overlapping with gene bodies. A majority of differentially methylated loci were in exons (61.5%) with less intron overlap (31.9%). While there was no evidence of a significant tendency for the genes with differentially methylated loci to be associated with distinct biological processes, the concentration of these loci in gene bodies, including genes involved in protein ubiquitination and biomineralization, suggests DNA methylation may be important for transcriptional control in response to ocean acidification. Changes in gonad methylation also indicate potential for these methylation patterns to be inherited by offspring. Understanding how experimental ocean acidification conditions modify the oyster epigenome, and if these modifications are inherited, allows for a better understanding of how ecosystems will respond to environmental change.

Continue reading ‘General DNA methylation patterns and environmentally-induced differential methylation in the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)’

Historical shell form variation in Lottia subrugosa from southeast Brazilian coast: possible responses to anthropogenic pressures


•Shell alterations have been used as proxies of environmental disturbances.

•Both biometric and morphometric parameters were used to detect shell alterations.

•Limpet shells sampled during the last 7 decades were assessed.

•Shell morphology alterations were detected at least after 40 years interval.

•Shell alterations were atributed to contamination increase and to climate change.


Mollusk shells can provide important information regarding environmental parameters. It is known that shell morphology is affected by both natural and anthropogenic factors. However, few studies have investigated alterations in shell morphology over a historical perspective and considering chemical contamination and climate changes. The present study assessed shell form (shape and size) variations of limpet (Lottia subrugosa) shells sampled from 1950 to 1981 (past) in comparison with organisms obtained in 2018 (present). Differences between shells from the past and present (2018) were detected, being shell weight and height the two most important affected parameters. The differences observed were attributed to the possible increase in contamination over the years due to human population growth and to climate change. Additionally, when shells from the past were evaluated according to the decade they were sampled, results indicate that it was necessary an interval of 40 years to shell form be altered within populations.

Continue reading ‘Historical shell form variation in Lottia subrugosa from southeast Brazilian coast: possible responses to anthropogenic pressures’

Planktonic stages of the ecologically important sea urchin, Diadema africanum: larval performance under near future ocean conditions

Diadema africanum is a recently described sea urchin from the Eastern Atlantic archipelagos, and adults play a major ecological role mediating the transition between two alternative ecosystem states: macroalgal beds and urchin barrens. The aim of this study was to describe for the first time the egg characteristics, fertilization and larval development. To determine basic life-history characteristics for this species, we reared larvae through to metamorphic competence under an energy shortage experiment and temperature–pH experiments to characterize the morphological plasticity of larval responses to actual and future oceanic conditions. D. africanum produces eggs that are larger both in diameter (82.7 μm) and volume (0.30 nl) than the eggs of both Diadema antillarum (70.0 μm, 0.18 nl) and Diadema mexicanum (68.0 μm, 0.16 nl). Larval development is similar to other species within the Family Diadematidae, with a Echinopluteus transversus larval type morphology. The combined effects of the climate change-related environmental factors resulted in a reduction in fitness of D. africanum at the warmer limit of its thermal range when combined with low pH. Results suggest that the egg and larval life-history characteristics of D. africanum may have evolved to facilitate long-distance oceanic transport; however, near-future oceanic conditions may compromise larval survival.

Continue reading ‘Planktonic stages of the ecologically important sea urchin, Diadema africanum: larval performance under near future ocean conditions’

High sensitivity of a keystone forage fish to elevated CO2 and temperature

Sand lances of the genus Ammodytes are keystone forage fish in coastal ecosystems across the northern hemisphere. Because they directly support populations of higher trophic organisms such as whales, seabirds or tuna, the current lack of empirical data and, therefore, understanding about the climate sensitivity of sand lances represent a serious knowledge gap. Sand lances could be particularly susceptible to ocean warming and acidification because, in contrast to other tested fish species, they reproduce during boreal winter months, and their offspring develop slowly under relatively low and stable pCO2 conditions. Over the course of 2 years, we conducted factorial pCO2 × temperature exposure experiments on offspring of the northern sand lance Ammodytes dubius, a key forage species on the northwest Atlantic shelf. Wild, spawning-ripe adults were collected from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Cape Cod, USA), and fertilized embryos were reared at three pCO2 conditions (400, 1000 and 2100 μatm) crossed with three temperatures (5, 7 and 10 ˚C). Exposure to future pCO2 conditions consistently resulted in severely reduced embryo survival. Sensitivity to elevated pCO2 was highest at 10 ˚C, resulting in up to an 89% reduction in hatching success between control and predicted end-of-century pCO2 conditions. Moreover, elevated pCO2 conditions delayed hatching, reduced remaining endogenous energy reserves at hatch and reduced embryonic growth. Our results suggest that the northern sand lance is exceptionally CO2-sensitive compared to other fish species. Whether other sand lance species with similar life history characteristics are equally CO2-sensitive is currently unknown. But the possibility is a conservation concern, because many boreal shelf ecosystems rely on sand lances and might therefore be more vulnerable to climate change than currently recognized. Our findings indicate that life history, spawning habitat, phenology and developmental rates mediate the divergent early life CO2 sensitivities among fish species.

Continue reading ‘High sensitivity of a keystone forage fish to elevated CO2 and temperature’

Wound healing in an elasmobranch fish is not impaired by high‐CO2 exposure

The purpose of this study was to test the effects of high CO2 exposure on wound healing rates in an elasmobranch fish (Urobatis jamaicensis). Small dermal injuries (8 mm biopsy) closed by 22 days post wounding with a decrease in haematocrit. High CO2 exposure (ΔpH = 1.4) did not influence healing rate or haematocrit. Combined, these data provide evidence that minimally invasive scientific procedures have short‐term impacts on elasmobranch fishes even during exposure to a chronic stressor. Therefore, wound healing rates may not be strongly impacted by ocean acidification (ΔpH = 0.4).

Continue reading ‘Wound healing in an elasmobranch fish is not impaired by high‐CO2 exposure’

Determining how biotic and abiotic variables affect the shell condition and parameters of Heliconoides inflatus pteropods from a sediment trap in the Cariaco Basin

Pteropods have been nicknamed the “canary in the coal mine” for ocean acidification because they are predicted to be among the first organisms to be affected by changing ocean chemistry. This is due to their fragile, aragonitic shells and high abundances in polar and subpolar regions where the impacts of ocean acidification are most pronounced. For pteropods to be used most effectively as indicators of ocean acidification, the biotic and abiotic factors influencing their shell formation and dissolution in the modern ocean need to be quantified and understood. Here, we measured the shell condition (i.e., the degree to which a shell has dissolved) and shell characteristics, including size, number of whorls, shell thickness, and shell volume (i.e., amount of shell material) of nearly 50 specimens of the pteropod species Heliconoides inflatus sampled from a sediment trap in the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela, over an 11-month period. The shell condition of pteropods from sediment traps has the potential to be altered at three stages: (1) when the organisms are live in the water column associated with ocean acidification, (2) when organisms are dead in the water column associated with biotic decay of organic matter and/or abiotic dissolution associated with ocean acidification, and (3) when organisms are in the closed sediment trap cup associated with abiotic alteration by the preservation solution. Shell condition was assessed using two methods: the Limacina Dissolution Index (LDX) and the opacity method. The opacity method was found to capture changes in shell condition only in the early stages of dissolution, whereas the LDX recorded dissolution changes over a much larger range. Because the water in the Cariaco Basin is supersaturated with respect to aragonite year-round, we assume no dissolution occurred during life, and there is no evidence that shell condition deteriorated with the length of time in the sediment trap. Light microscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM) images show the majority of alteration happened to dead pteropods while in the water column associated with the decay of organic matter. The most altered shells occurred in samples collected in September and October when water temperatures were warmest and when the amount of organic matter degradation, both within the shells of dead specimens and in the water column, was likely to have been the greatest.

Continue reading ‘Determining how biotic and abiotic variables affect the shell condition and parameters of Heliconoides inflatus pteropods from a sediment trap in the Cariaco Basin’

Coral persistence despite extreme periodic pH fluctuations at a volcanically acidified Caribbean reef

Naturally acidified environments, such as those caused by volcanic CO2 venting, reveal how complex coral reef ecosystems may respond to future ocean acidification conditions. Few of these sites have been described worldwide, and only a single such site is known from the Caribbean. Herein, we have characterized an area of volcanic acidification at Mayreau Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Despite localized CO2 enrichment and gas venting, the surrounding area has high hard and soft coral cover, as well as extensive carbonate frameworks. Twice daily extremes in acidification, in some cases leading to undersaturation of aragonite, are correlated with tidal fluctuations and are likely related to water flow. Corals persisting despite this periodic acidification can provide insights into mechanisms of resilience and the importance of natural pH variability on coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Coral persistence despite extreme periodic pH fluctuations at a volcanically acidified Caribbean reef’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book