Posts Tagged 'performance'

Reanalysis shows there is not an extreme decline effect in fish ocean acidification studies

Clements and colleagues [1] claim there is an extreme decline effect in studies published between 2009 and 2019 on the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) on fish behaviour, with the modelled average effect size declining from >5 in 2009 to 2010 to <0.5 after 2015. Here, I show that the extreme decline effect reported by Clements and colleagues is a statistical artifact caused by the way they corrected for zero values in percentage data, which was more common in the earliest experiments compared with later studies. Furthermore, selective choices for excluding or including data, along with data compilation errors and missing studies with strong effects, weakened the effect sizes reported for papers after 2010, further exacerbating the decline effect reported by Clements and colleagues. When the data is reanalysed using appropriate corrections for zeros in percentage and proportional data and using a complete, corrected, and properly screened data set, the extreme decline effect reported by Clements and colleagues no longer exists (Fig 1A and 1B). Instead, there is a more gentle and consistent decline in effect size magnitude through time, from a modelled average <3 in 2009 to 2010 (Fig 1C) and remaining well above zero in 2018 to 2019 (Fig 1D).

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Ocean acidification affects the bioenergetics of marine mussels as revealed by high-coverage quantitative metabolomics

Graphical abstract.


  • The metabolic response of mussels to acidification was evaluated.
  • Acidification decreased energy storage and increased energy demands.
  • Acidification affected amino acid metabolism and biosynthesis.
  • Carry-over effects of acidification on cellular energy allocation were observed.


Ocean acidification has become a major ecological and environmental problem in the world, whereas the impact mechanism of ocean acidification in marine bivalves is not fully understood. Cellular energy allocation (CEA) approach and high-coverage metabolomic techniques were used to investigate the acidification effects on the energy metabolism of mussels. The thick shell mussels Mytilus coruscus were exposed to seawater pH 8.1 (control) and pH 7.7 (acidification) for 14 days and allowed to recover at pH 8.1 for 7 days. The levels of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins significantly decreased in the digestive glands of the mussels exposed to acidification. The 14-day acidification exposure increased the energy demands of mussels, resulting in increased electron transport system (ETS) activity and decreased cellular energy allocation (CEA). Significant carry-over effects were observed on all cellular energy parameters except the concentration of carbohydrates and cellular energy demand (Ec) after 7 days of recovery. Metabolomic analysis showed that acidification affected the phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan biosynthesis, taurine and hypotaurine metabolism, and glycine, serine and threonine metabolism. Correlation analysis showed that mussel cell energy parameters (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, CEA) were negatively/positively correlated with certain differentially abundant metabolites. Overall, the integrated biochemical and metabolomics analyses demonstrated the negative effects of acidification on energy metabolism at the cellular level and implicated the alteration of biosynthesis and metabolism of amino acids as a mechanism of metabolic perturbation caused by acidification in mussels.

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Effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia on stress and growth hormone responses in juvenile blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus)

Global climate change is causing increasing ocean acidification (OA) and deoxygenation (hypoxia) of coastal oceans. Along the coast of California, where upwelling is a dominant seasonal physical process, these environmental stressors often co-occur and are intensified in nearshore ecosystems. For juvenile nearshore fishes, who spend a crucial developmental life stage in coastal kelp forests during the upwelling season, these stressors are experienced concurrently and may have large implications for fitness. Environmental stress can set off an endocrine response, which impacts physiology, energy allocation, growth, and behavior. To test the effects of climate change on juvenile blue rockfish, I measured the endocrine response to single and combined stressors of OA and hypoxia after one week of exposure. Assays of cortisol and IGF-1 hormone responses, served as proxies for stress and growth, respectively. Full organismal effects of environmental stressors were evaluated using a scototaxis (i.e., light/dark anxiety) behavior test, and measures of physiological changes in maximum metabolic rate (MMR) and body condition (i.e., Fulton’s K condition index). I found that peak (~1 hour) cortisol levels were highest in the single stressor low pH (7.3 pH), followed by the combined stressor (7.3 pH and 2.0 mg/L O2) and then the single stressor hypoxic treatment (2.0 mg/l O2). This high peak cortisol associated with low pH may indicate the role of cortisol in acid-base regulation. Only the low DO (dissolved oxygen) group did not exhibit a recovery of cortisol levels by the end of one week. There was no observable difference in IGF-1 in juvenile blue rockfish after a week of exposure to any of the pH or DO stressors. When cortisol levels were high, the same fish had low levels of IGF-1, and when cortisol levels were lower, the same fish had highly variable levels of IGF-1. At one-week of exposure, cortisol exhibited a positive relationship with MMR, such that higher stress levels were associated with greater oxygen consumption by the fish. MMR values themselves were highest in the low DO fish, which subsequently also had slightly higher cortisol levels at one-week. Juvenile blue rockfish were largely robust to any behavioral changes associated with stress across treatments. Hypoxic treatment fish had significantly lower body condition than fish from treatments with ambient DO levels after one week. Overall, the results indicated that pH levels influenced hormonal stress physiology, while DO levels contributed to observed differences in metabolism, body condition, and behavioral anxiety in juvenile blue rockfish. I was unable to tease apart and classify whether OA and hypoxia work in an additive, antagonistic, or synergistic way. Continued research should include more experimental stressor treatment levels of varying intensity of both individual and combined treatments as well as upwelling/relaxation fluctuating treatment levels. Elucidating the effects of climate change on fish endocrine response and physiology is important for fish population management and can help inform stock assessment models of blue rockfish in a rapidly changing ocean.

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Effects of hypoxia and acidification on Calanus pacificus: behavioral changes in response to stressful environments

Copepods, which play major roles in marine food webs and biogeochemical cycling, frequently undergo diel vertical migration (DVM), swimming downwards during the day to avoid visual predation and upwards at night to feed. Natural water columns that are stratified with chemical stressors at depth, such as hypoxia and acidification, are increasing with climate change. Understanding behavioral responses of copepods to these stresses—in particular, whether copepods alter their natural migration—is important to anticipating impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. We conducted laboratory experiments using stratified water columns to measure the effects of bottom water hypoxia and pH on mortality, distribution, and swimming behaviors of the calanoid copepod Calanus pacificus. When exposed to hypoxic (0.65 mg O2 l-1) bottom waters, the height of C. pacificus from the bottom increased 20% within hypoxic columns, and swimming speed decreased 46% at the bottom of hypoxic columns and increased 12% above hypoxic waters. When exposed to low pH (7.48) bottom waters, swimming speeds decreased by 8 and 9% at the base of the tanks and above acidic waters, respectively. Additionally, we found a 118% increase in ‘moribund’ (immobile on the bottom) copepods when exposed to hypoxic, but not acidic, bottom waters. Some swimming statistics differed between copepods collected from sites with versus without historical hypoxia and acidity. Observed responses suggest potential mechanisms underlying in situ changes in copepod population distributions when exposed to chemical stressors at depth.

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Ocean acidification modifies behaviour of shelf seabed macrofauna: a laboratory study on two ecosystem engineers, Abra alba and Lanice conchilega

The feeding activity and burrow ventilation by benthic invertebrates importantly affect the biodiversity and functioning of seafloor sediments. Here we investigated how ocean acidification can modify these behavioural activities in two common and abundant macrofaunal ecosystem engineering species in temperate continental shelf communities: the white furrow shell Abra alba and the sand mason Lanice conchilega. Using time-lapse imagery and sediment porewater hydraulic signatures we show that both species adapt their behaviour in response to predicted future pH conditions (−0.3 units). During a three-week laboratory experiment, A. alba reduced the duration per feeding event when suspension and deposit feeding (by 86 and 53%, respectively), and almost completely ceased suspension feeding under reduced seawater pH in comparison to ambient seawater pH (pH ∼ 8.2). This behavioural change reduces the intake of low pH water during feeding and respiration. L. conchilega increased its piston-pumping frequency by 30 and 52%, respectively, after one and two weeks of exposure to future pH conditions (−0.3 units) relative to ambient conditions. This change in irrigation activity suggests higher metabolic demands under low seawater pH, and also extended low water column pH conditions deeper into the seafloor. Because the distribution of other populations depends on the physicochemical setting by our focal species, we argue that the demonstrated behavioural plasticity will likely have cascading effects on seafloor diversity and functioning, highlighting the complexity of how ocean acidification, and climate change in general, will affect seafloor ecology.

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Ocean acidification alters the acute stress response of a marine fish

Graphical abstract.


  • Ocean acidification (OA) impacts the physiological stress response of European sea bass.
  • Post-stress return to basal plasma cortisol and glucose levels is delayed under OA.
  • This delay is associated to alteration of hypothalamic neurotransmitters pattern.
  • Motor activity is reduced during recovery from stress in fish under OA conditions.


The absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by oceans generates rapid changes in seawater carbonate system and pH, a process termed ocean acidification. Exposure to acidified water can impact the allostatic load of marine organism as the acclimation to suboptimal environments requires physiological adaptive responses that are energetically costly. As a consequence, fish facing ocean acidification may experience alterations of their stress response and a compromised ability to cope with additional stress, which may impact individuals’ life traits and ultimately their fitness. In this context, we carried out an integrative study investigating the impact of ocean acidification on the physiological and behavioral stress responses to an acute stress in juvenile European sea bass. Fish were long term (11 months) exposed to present day pH/CO2 condition or acidified water as predicted by IPCC “business as usual” (RCP8.5) scenario for 2100 and subjected to netting stress (fish transfer and confinement test). Fish acclimated to acidified condition showed slower post stress return to plasma basal concentrations of cortisol and glucose. We found no clear indication of regulation in the central and interrenal tissues of the expression levels of gluco- and mineralocorticoid receptors and corticoid releasing factor. At 120 min post stress, sea bass acclimated to acidified water had divergent neurotransmitters concentrations pattern in the hypothalamus (higher serotonin levels and lower GABA and dopamine levels) and a reduction in motor activity. Our experimental data indicate that ocean acidification alters the physiological response to acute stress in European sea bass via the neuroendocrine regulation of the corticotropic axis, a response associated to an alteration of the motor behavioral profile. Overall, this study suggests that behavioral and physiological adaptive response to climate changes related constraints may impact fish resilience to further stressful events.

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Genetic architecture of behavioural resilience to ocean acidification

Genetic variation is essential for adaptation to rapid environmental changes. Identifying genetic variation associated with climate-change related phenotypes is therefore the necessary first step towards predictive models of genomic vulnerability.

Here we used a whole-genome scan to identify candidate genetic variants associated with differences in behavioural resilience to ocean acidification in a coral reef fish. We identified three genomic regions that differ between individuals that are behaviourally tolerant compared with behaviourally sensitive to elevated CO2. These include a dopamine receptor (drd4rs), cadherin related family member 5-like (cdhr5l), Synapse-associated protein 1 (syap1), and GRB2 Associated Regulator of MAPK1 Subtype 2 (garem2), which have previously been found to modify behaviour related to boldness, novelty seeking, and learning in other species, and differ between behaviourally tolerant and sensitive individuals.

Consequently, the identified genes are promising candidates in the search of the genetic underpinnings and adaptive potential of behavioural resilience to ocean acidification in fishes.

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Limited behavioural effects of ocean acidification on a Mediterranean anemone goby (Gobius incognitus) chronically exposed to elevated CO2 levels

Graphical abstract


  • This is the first assessment in the wild of behavioural responses of fish acutely and chronically exposed to elevated CO2.
  • High density of anemone goby fish was recorded at high-CO2 levels off a volcanic CO2 vent in Vulcano island (Italy).
  • Acute and chronic exposure to elevated CO2 did not affect most of the behaviours in adult G. incognitus.
  • Behavioural plasticity occurred under ocean acidification conditions suggesting potential local adaptation.


An in situ reciprocal transplant experiment was carried around a volcanic CO2 vent to evaluate the anti-predator responses of an anemone goby species exposed to ambient (∼380 μatm) and high (∼850 μatm) CO2 sites. Overall, the anemone gobies displayed largely unaffected behaviors under high-CO2 conditions suggesting an adaptive potential of Gobius incognitus to ocean acidification (OA) conditions. This is also supported by its 3-fold higher density recorded in the field under high CO2. However, while fish exposed to ambient conditions showed an expected reduction in the swimming activity in the proximity of the predator between the pre- and post-exposure period, no such changes were detected in any of the other treatments where fish experienced acute and long-term high CO2. This may suggest an OA effect on the goby antipredator strategy. Our findings contribute to the ongoing debate over the need for realistic predictions of the impacts of expected increased CO2 concentration on fish, providing evidence from a natural high CO2 system.

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Camouflage and exploratory avoidance of newborn cuttlefish under warming and acidification

Ocean warming and acidification have been shown to elicit deleterious effects on cephalopod mollusks, especially during early ontogeny, albeit effects on behavior remain largely unexplored. This study aimed to evaluate, for the first time, the effect of end-of-the-century projected levels of ocean warming (W; + 3 °C) and acidification (A; 980 µatm pCO2) on Sepia officinalis hatchlings’ exploratory behavior and ability to camouflage in different substrate complexities (sand and black and white gravel). Cuttlefish were recorded in open field tests, from which mobility and exploratory avoidance behavior data were obtained. Latency to camouflage was registered remotely, and pixel intensity of body planes and background gravel were extracted from photographs. Hatching success was lowered under A and W combined (AW; 72.7%) compared to control conditions (C; 98.8%). Motion-related behaviors were not affected by the treatments. AW delayed camouflage response in the gravel substrate compared to W alone. Moreover, cuttlefish exhibited a higher contrast and consequently a stronger disruptive pattern under W, with no changes in background matching. These findings suggest that, although climate change may elicit relevant physiological challenges to cuttlefish, camouflage and mobility of these mollusks are not undermined under the ocean of tomorrow. 

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Variation in the behavioral tolerance of congeneric marine snails to low-pH exposure

The ocean is acidifying, with multiple consequences for coastal organisms. However, species may differ in their sensitivities. Some taxa may find future conditions mildly stressful or even advantageous, while others will persist only through acclimatization or genetic adaptation. An open question is whether such variation in the sensitivity of species to ocean acidification relates to their evolutionary histories of exposure to reduced pH. Here, we explored this unknown through an investigation of differences in pH tolerance of 2 shoreline gastropods, the black turban snail Tegula funebralis and its congener, the brown turban snail T. brunnea. These species occupy distinct vertical distributions on rocky shores, each subject to different extremes in low pH. We assayed the extent to which low pH degrades the flight behavior of each species in response to the predatory sea star Pisaster ochraceus. Across a range of pH, the tidepool-inhabiting T. funebralis exhibited less behavioral disruption than T. brunnea at any given pH value but also experienced impairment at a pH characteristic of the present-day minimum in its habitat (7.1 pH). The latter pattern suggests T. funebralis operates near what may be a fixed tolerance limit to low pH. T. funebralis also exhibited hints of elevated intraspecific variation in its behaviors, which could imply scope for selection to act. Deeper-dwelling T. brunnea, in contrast, showed little sensitivity to present-day pH minima found where it lives (7.6 pH) and displayed less variation upon which selection might operate. These results provide a initial framework for investigations into the capacity of species of differing evolutionary histories to cope with future ocean acidification.

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The effects of alkalinity on production performance and biochemical responses of spiny lobster Panulirus homarus reared in recirculating aquaculture system

Spiny lobsters (Panulirus sp.) were valuable and one of the most popular Indonesian export commodities. Some approaches were made to increase the quantity and quality of cultivated spiny lobsters. Land-based mariculture with Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) was applied to increase lobster harvesting and optimize environmental quality by adjusting water alkalinity. This study aimed to determine the optimum level of alkalinity for spiny lobsters Panulirus homarus rearing in RAS. This study investigated the effects of applying four water alkalinity levels (Control, 125, 200, and 275 mg L-1 CaCO3) on the biochemical responses of P. homarus observed in the hemolymph in terms of Total Hemocyte Count (THC), glucose, total protein, calcium, and pH levels.

Furthermore, we also studied the alkalinity effects on lobster production performance parameters in terms of body weight gain, body length, Survival Rate (SR), Specific Growth Rate (SGR), and Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR). Lobsters with an initial weight rate of 58.05±1.69 g and an initial total length rate of 115.33±1.52 mm were reared for 60 days in a recirculation system. Results of water quality parameters such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity during the study were available for lobster rearing. Different alkalinity levels affected the biochemical responses and production performance of lobsters. The best alkalinity level to reared Panulirus sp. in the recirculation system during this study was 200 mg L-1 CaCO3 so that it could achieve the highest survival rate of 86.67% with SGR 0.60±0.01 % day-1.

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Saving Nemo: extinction risk, conservation status, and effective management strategies for anemonefishes

Anemonefishes share a number of life history and ecological traits, and some unfortunate links to human-induced stress, that expose some of the 28 species to the risk of extinction. The biodiversity hotspot for anemonefishes extends across Southeast Asia to the western Pacific, including many countries where there are high levels of human impact and few effective management strategies. Anemonefish biodiversity is threatened by anemone bleaching, direct effects of ocean warming and acidification, collection for the aquarium trade, and coastal development. These risks are exacerbated by extreme habitat specialization, the mutual anemonefish–anemone relationship, low abundance, low population connectivity, small geographic ranges, and shallow depth ranges. Many species exhibit two or three of these traits, with small range species often associated with fewer anemone hosts and narrower depth ranges, exposing them to double or triple jeopardy. While all species have not been assessed by the IUCN, our detailed analysis of area of occupancy indicates that three species are extremely close to the threshold for being classified as Critically Endangered. Marine reserves have been effective in protecting species from exploitation and helping sustain marginal populations across generations, but effective population sizes are often very small and recovery can be slow. Additional management efforts need to focus on sustainable collecting practices and the protection and restoration of critical anemone habitats.

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Effect of CO2 driven ocean acidification on the mud crab Scylla serrata instars

Graphical abstract


  • Ocean acidification (OA) affected feed intake and growth of Scylla serrata.
  • OA reduced minerals content in S. serrata.
  • OA disturbs the chitin production and alkaline phosphatase activity in S.serrata.
  • OA increased the antioxidants and metabolic enzymes in S. serrata.


The decreasing ocean pH seems to adversely affect marine organisms, including crustaceans, which leads to potential threats to seafood safety. The present investigation evaluated the effect of seawater acidification on the edible marine mud crab Scylla serrata instars. The experimental setup was designed using a multi-cell cage based system assembled with 20 pre holed PVC pipes containing 20 individual crabs to avoid cannibalism. The crab instars were exposed to CO2 driven acidified seawater at pH 7.8 (IPCC forecast pH at the end of the 21st century), 7.6, 7.4, 7.2, and 7.0 for 60 days. The crabs reared in seawater without acidification at pH 8.2 served as control. The present study revealed a notable decrease in survival, feed intake, growth, molting, tissue biochemical constituents, minerals, chitin, and alkaline phosphatase in S. serrata instar reared in acidified seawater, denotes the adverse effect of seawater acidification on crabs. The significant elevations in antioxidants, lipid peroxidation, and metabolic enzymes in all acidified seawater compared to ambient pH indicates the physiological stress of the crabs’ instars. The changes in the metabolic enzymes reveal the metabolism of protein and glucose for additional energy required by the crabs to tolerate the acidic stress. Hence, the present study provides insight into the seawater acidification can adversely affect the crab S. serrata.

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Ocean acidification but not nutrient enrichment reduces grazing and alters diet preference in Littorina littorea

Ocean acidification and eutrophication have direct, positive effects on the growth of many marine macroalgae, potentially resulting in macroalgal blooms and shifts in ecosystem structure and function. Enhanced growth of macroalgae, however, may be controlled by the presence of grazers. While grazing under ocean acidification and eutrophication conditions has variable responses, there is evidence of these factors indirectly increasing consumption. We tested whether a common marine herbivorous snail, Littorina littorea, would increase consumption rates of macroalgae (Ulva and Fucus) under ocean acidification (increased pCO2) and/or eutrophication conditions, via feeding trials on live and reconstituted algal thalli. We found that increased pCO2 resulted in reduced grazing rates on live thalli, with snails feeding almost exclusively on Ulva. However, eutrophication did not impact consumption rates of live tissues. In addition, similarity in consumption of reconstituted Ulva and Fucus tissues across all treatments indicated that physical characteristics of algal tissues, rather than tissue chemistry, may drive dietary shifts in a changing climate. In this system, decreased consumption, coupled with increased growth of macroalgae, may ultimately enhance algal growth and spread.

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Integrative assessment of biomarker responses in Mytilus galloprovincialis exposed to seawater acidification and copper ions

Graphical abstract


  • Both OA and Cu ions caused physiological disturbances to the mussel.
  • Mussels have the ability to restore most of the tested parameters from the stress of OA and Cu ions.
  • Gills are more sensitive than digestive glands.
  • IBR analysis demonstrated the co-exposure caused the most brutal impact to the mussel.


The interactive effects of ocean acidification (OA) and copper (Cu) ions on the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis are not well understood. The underlying mechanisms also remain obscure. In this study, individuals of M. galloprovincialis were exposed for 28 days to 25 μg/L and 50 μg/L Cu ions at two pH levels (ambient level – pH 8.1; acidified level – pH 7.6). The mussels were then monitored for 56 days to determine their recovery ability. Physiological parameters (clearance rate and respiration rate), oxidative stress and neurotoxicity biomarkers (activities of superoxide dismutase, lipid peroxidation, catalase, and acetylcholinesterase), as well as the recovery ability of these parameters, were investigated in two typical tissues (i.e., gills and digestive glands). Results showed that (1) OA affected the bioconcentration of Cu in the gills and digestive glands of the mussels; (2) both OA and Cu can lead to physiological disturbance, oxidative stress, cellular damage, energy metabolism disturbance, and neurotoxicity on M. galloprovincialis; (3) gill is more sensitive to OA and Cu than digestive gland; (4) Most of the biochemical and physiological alternations caused by Cu and OA exposures in M. galloprovincialis can be repaired by the recovery experiments; (5) integrated biomarker response (IBR) analysis demonstrated that both OA and Cu ions exposure caused survival stresses to the mussels, with the highest effect shown in the co-exposure treatment. This study highlights the necessity to include OA along with pollutants in future studies to better elucidate the risks of ecological perturbations. The work also sheds light on the recovery of marine animals after short-term environmental stresses when the natural environment has recovered.

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Effects of one-year exposure to ocean acidification on two species of abalone

Graphical abstract


  • Exposure to moderate and high levels of OA increased mortality of adult H. diversicolor, while for H. discus hannai, mortality was increased only under exposure to the high level of OA.


Ocean acidification (OA) resulting from the absorption of excess atmospheric CO2 by the ocean threatens the survival of marine calcareous organisms, including mollusks. This study investigated the effects of OA on adults of two abalone species (Haliotis diversicolor, a subtropical species, and Haliotis discus hannai, a temperate species). Abalone were exposed to three pCO2 conditions for 1 year (ambient, ~880, and ~1600 μatm), and parameters, including mortality, physiology, immune system, biochemistry, and carry-over effects, were measured. Survival decreased significantly at 800 μatm pCO2 for H. diversicolor, while H. discus hannai survival was negatively affected only at a higher OA level (~1600 μatm pCO2). H. diversicolor exhibited depressed metabolic and excretion rates and a higher O:N ratio under OA, indicating a shift to lipids as a metabolism substrate, while these physiological parameters in H. discus hannai were robust to OA. Both abalone failed to compensate for the pH decrease of their internal fluids because of the lowered hemolymph pH under OA. However, the reduced hemolymph pH did not affect total hemocyte counts or tested biomarkers. Additionally, H. discus hannai increased its hemolymph protein content under OA, which could indicate enhanced immunity. Larvae produced by adults exposed to the three pCO2 levels were cultured in the same pCO2 conditions and larval deformation and shell length were measured to observe carry-over effects. Enhanced OA tolerance was observed for H. discus hannai exposed under both of the OA treatments, while that was only observed following parental pCO2 ~ 880 μatm exposure for H. diversicolor. Following pCO2 ~ 1600 μatm parental exposure, H. diversicolor offspring exhibited higher deformation and lower shell growth in all pCO2 treatments. In general, H. diversicolor were more susceptible to OA compared with H. discus hannai, suggesting that H. diversicolor could be unable to adapt to acidified oceans in the future.

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Differential effects of warming and acidification on chemosensory transmission and detection may strengthen non-consumptive effects of blue crab predators (Callinectes sapidus) on mud crab prey (Panopeus herbstii)

Predators control prey abundance and behavior, both of which strongly influence community dynamics. However, the relative importance of these predator effects may shift with climate change stressors, suggesting understanding the potential effects on these different processes is critical to predicting effects of climate change on community function. We investigated the effects of global warming and ocean acidification on the transmission and detection of chemical cues from blue crab predators (Callinectes sapidus) by mud crab prey (Panopeus herbstii). We measured mud crab feeding rates in the presence of blue crab predator cues, using either predator cues stressed in acidified conditions or mud crabs stressed in warmed and acidified conditions. Mud crabs consumed less food in the presence of predator cues, but acidifying the cues or subjecting mud crabs receiving the cues to acidified environment did not affect this antipredator response. Mud crabs in warmed conditions consumed significantly less food regardless of predator cue, but this effect was reversed in ambient conditions. Therefore, climate change may produce shifts in community regulation as warming potentially compromises consumptive effects of predators by reducing motor function, whereas non-consumptive effects mediated by sensory transmission and detection remain unaffected by acidification. Overall, warming may have stronger effects than acidification on community dynamics in oyster reefs as global temperatures continue to rise.

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Ocean acidification will impede swimming in sea urchin sperm

A kina sea urchin. Photo credit: Mary Sewell.

The grim impact of ocean acidification on many marine creatures is becoming brutally evident. Pretty much any animal that depends on a calcium carbonate shell or skeleton – including molluscs and coral reefs – is at risk as the oceans soak up human CO2 emissions. But other aspects of their lifestyle may also be affected by the oceans’ plummeting pH. Sea urchin sperm are triggered into action when released into seawater with a pH higher than 8, raising their internal pH and activating the motor proteins that drive their powerful beating tails as they search for an egg. However, some researchers are concerned that the lower pH of seawater as acidification takes hold may mean it will no longer activate sea urchin sperm when released. Without the essential internal pH rise, the sperm may be too sluggish to locate and fertilise eggs. But no one had directly checked how the ocean pH reductions that are predicted to occur by 2100 and 2150 could impact the New Zealand sea urchin (Evechinus chloroticus – known in Māori as the kina). Michael Hudson and Mary Sewell from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, decided to check out what the future may hold for the self-propelled gametes.

‘We prepared the experimental seawaters by bubbling precise mixes of gases through special injectors at a set temperature’, says Hudson, who then diluted fresh kina sperm into two versions of future seawater – simulating the sea in the year 2100 (pH 7.77) and in 2150 (pH 7.51) – to monitor how the gametes would propel themselves. Unfortunately, only 74% of the sperm were able to swim in the turn-of-the-century predicted water conditions, falling to 64% by 2150, compared with 83% in present day seawater. And when Hudson checked their swimming style, he found the 2150 sperm were no more sluggish than the 2100 sperm; however, the gametes took more indirect curving paths, slowing their forward movement, with implications for future fertility. ‘Fertilisation requires sperm to collide with eggs and it is known that the end result of fewer sperm swimming and lower swimming speeds is reduced levels of sperm–egg collisions and lower fertilisation rates’, says Hudson.

A related article has been published: Ocean acidification impacts sperm swimming performance and pHi in the New Zealand sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus

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Ocean acidification impacts sperm swimming performance and pHi in the New Zealand sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus

In sea urchins, spermatozoa are stored in the gonads in hypercapnic conditions (pH<7.0). During spawning, sperm are diluted in seawater of pH>8.0, and there is an alkalinization of the sperm’s internal pH (pHi) through the release of CO2 and H+. Previous research has shown that when pHi is above 7.2-7.3, the dynein ATPase flagellar motors are activated, and the sperm become motile. It has been hypothesised that ocean acidification (OA), which decreases the pH of seawater, may have a narcotic effect on sea urchin sperm by impairing the ability to regulate pHi, resulting in decreased motility and swimming speed. Here we use data collected from the same individuals to test the relationship between pHi and sperm motility/performance in the New Zealand sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus (Valenciennes) under near- (2100) and far-future (2150) atmospheric pCO2 conditions (RCP 8.5: pH 7.77, 7.51). Decreasing seawater pH significantly negatively impacted the proportion of motile sperm), and four of the six computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA) sperm performance measures. In control conditions, sperm had an activated pHi of 7.52. E. chloroticus sperm could not defend pHi. in future OA conditions; there was a stepped decrease in the pHi at pH 7.77, with no significant difference in mean pHi between pH 7.77 and 7.51. Paired measurements in the same males showed a positive relationship between pHi and sperm motility, but with a significant difference in the response between males. Differences in motility and sperm performance in OA conditions may impact fertilization success in a future ocean.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification impacts sperm swimming performance and pHi in the New Zealand sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus’

Energetics, but not development, is impacted in coral embryos exposed to ocean acidification 

In light of the chronic stress and mass mortality reef-building corals face under climate change, it is critical to understand the processes driving reef persistence and replenishment, including coral reproduction and development. Here we quantify gene expression and sensitivity to ocean acidification across a set of developmental stages in the rice coral, Montipora capitata. Embryos and swimming larvae were exposed to pH treatments 7.8 (Ambient), 7.6 (Low) and 7.3 (Xlow) from fertilization to 9 days post-fertilization. Embryo and larval volume, and stage-specific gene expression were compared between treatments to determine the effects of acidified seawater on early development. While there was no measurable size differentiation between pH treatments at the fertilized egg and prawn chip (9 hours post-fertilization) stages, early gastrulae and larvae raised in reduced pH treatments were significantly smaller than those raised in ambient seawater, suggesting an energetic cost to developing under low pH. However, no differentially expressed genes were found until the swimming larval stage. Notably, gene expression patterns of larvae developing at pH 7.8 and pH 7.3 were more similar than those developing at pH 7.6. Larvae from pH 7.6 showed upregulation of genes involved in cell division, regulation of transcription, lipid metabolism, and response to oxidative stress in comparison to the other two treatments. While low pH appears to increase energetic demands and trigger oxidative stress in larvae, the developmental process is robust to this at a molecular level, with the swimming larval stage reached in all pH treatments.

Continue reading ‘Energetics, but not development, is impacted in coral embryos exposed to ocean acidification ‘

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