Posts Tagged 'reproduction'

Direct and indirect effects of elevated CO2 are revealed through shifts in phytoplankton, copepod development, and fatty acid accumulation

Change in the nutritional quality of phytoplankton is a key mechanism through which ocean acidification can affect the function of marine ecosystems. Copepods play an important role transferring energy from phytoplankton to higher trophic levels, including fatty acids (FA)—essential macronutrients synthesized by primary producers that can limit zooplankton and fisheries production. We investigated the direct effects of pCO2 on phytoplankton and copepods in the laboratory, as well as the trophic transfer of effects of pCO2 on food quality. The marine cryptophyte Rhodomonas salina was cultured at 400, 800, and 1200 μatm pCO2 and fed to adult Acartia hudsonica acclimated to the same pCO2 levels. We examined changes in phytoplankton growth rate, cell size, carbon content, and FA content, and copepod FA content, grazing, respiration, egg production, hatching, and naupliar development. This single-factor experiment was repeated at 12°C and at 17°C. At 17°C, the FA content of R. salina responded non-linearly to elevated pCO2 with the greatest FA content at intermediate levels, which was mirrored in A. hudsonica; however, differences in ingestion rate indicate that copepods accumulated FA less efficiently at elevated pCO2. A. hudsonica nauplii developed faster at elevated pCO2 at 12°C in the absence of strong food quality effects, but not at 17°C when food quality varied among treatments. Our results demonstrate that changes to the nutritional quality of phytoplankton are not directly translated to their grazers, and that studies that include trophic links are key to unraveling how ocean acidification will drive changes in marine food webs.

Continue reading ‘Direct and indirect effects of elevated CO2 are revealed through shifts in phytoplankton, copepod development, and fatty acid accumulation’

A negative correlation between behavioural and physiological performance under ocean acidification and warming

Many studies have examined the average effects of ocean acidification and warming on phenotypic traits of reef fishes, finding variable, but often negative effects on behavioural and physiological performance. Yet the presence and nature of a relationship between these traits is unknown. A negative relationship between phenotypic traits could limit individual performance and even the capacity of populations to adapt to climate change. Here, we examined the relationship between behavioural and physiological performance of a juvenile reef fish under elevated CO2 and temperature in a full factorial design. Behaviourally, the response to an alarm odour was negatively affected by elevated CO2, but not elevated temperature. Physiologically, aerobic scope was significantly diminished under elevated temperature, but not under elevated CO2. At the individual level, there was no relationship between behavioural and physiological traits in the control and single-stressor treatments. However, a statistically significant negative relationship was detected between the traits in the combined elevated CO2 and temperature treatment. Our results demonstrate that trade-offs in performance between behavioural and physiological traits may only be evident when multiple climate change stressors are considered, and suggest that this negative relationship could limit adaptive potential to climate change.

Continue reading ‘A negative correlation between behavioural and physiological performance under ocean acidification and warming’

Variability of seawater chemistry in a kelp forest environment is linked to in situ transgenerational effects in the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

While the value of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) as a habitat-forming foundation species is well-understood, it is unclear how they impact the oxygen concentration and pH of the surrounding seawater, and further, how such a dynamic abiotic environment will affect eco-evolutionary dynamics in a context of global change. Here, we profiled the nearshore kelp forest environment in Southern California to understand changes in dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH with high spatiotemporal resolution. We then examined transgenerational effects using sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) as our study organism. Using enclosures on the benthos, we conditioned adult sea urchins in situ at two locations – one inside the kelp forest and one outside the kelp forest. After a 11-week conditioning period timed to coincide with gametogenesis in the adults, the urchins were collected, spawned, and cultures of their progeny were raised in the laboratory in order to assess their performance to simulated ocean acidification. In terms of the physical observations, we observed significant changes in DO and pH not only when comparing sites inside and outside of the kelp forest, but also between surface and benthic sensors at the same site. DO and pH at the benthos differed in mean, the amplitude of the diel signal, and in the profile of background noise of the signal. Ultimately, these results indicated that both DO and pH were more predictably variable inside of the kelp forest environment. On the biological side, we found that adult sea urchins inside the kelp forest produced more protein-rich eggs that developed into more pH-resilient embryos. Overall, this study in a temperate kelp forest ecosystem is one of the first studies to not only observe biological response to highly characterized environmental variability in situ, but also to observe such changes in a transgenerational context.

Continue reading ‘Variability of seawater chemistry in a kelp forest environment is linked to in situ transgenerational effects in the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus’

Transgenerational effects of short-term exposure to acidification and hypoxia on early developmental traits of the mussel Mytilus edulis


• Effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia on the early development of the mussel M. edulis were investigated.

• Positive carry-over effects of adult mussels exposed to low pH and hypoxia were observed on larvae performance.

• Low pH showed key negative effects on the early development of the mussel M. edulis.


Transgenerational effects of multiple stressors on marine organisms are emerging environmental themes. We thus experimentally tested for transgenerational effects of seawater acidification and hypoxia on the early development traits of the mussel Mytilus edulis. Fertilization rate, embryo deformity rate, and larval shell length were negatively impacted by acidification, while hypoxia had little effect except for increasing deformity rates under control pH conditions. Offspring from low pH/O2 parents were less negatively affected by low pH/O2 conditions than offspring from control parents; however, low pH/O2 conditions still negatively affected developmental traits in offspring from acclimated parents compared to control seawater conditions. Our results demonstrate that experimental seawater acidification and hypoxia can adversely affect early developmental traits of M. edulis and that parental exposure can only partially alleviate these impacts. If experimental observations hold true in nature, it is unlikely that parental exposure will confer larval tolerance to ocean acidification for M. edulis.

Continue reading ‘Transgenerational effects of short-term exposure to acidification and hypoxia on early developmental traits of the mussel Mytilus edulis’

Early development and metabolic physiology of the temperate lesser spotted shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) under high CO2 levels

Although sharks thrive in many different kinds of habitats and evolved to fill many ecological niches across a wide range of habitats, these animals are characterized by the limited capability to adapt rapidly to future climate change. Thus, the objective of the present dissertation was to analyze the potential impact of seawater acidification (OA, high CO2 levels ~1000 μatm) on the early development and physiology of the temperate shark Scyliorhinus canicula. More specifically, we evaluated OA effects on: i) development time and first feed, ii) Fulton condition of the newborns, iii) survival, iv) routine metabolic rate (RMR), v) maximum metabolic rate (MMR), and vi) aerobic scope (AS). The duration of embrygenesis ranged from 118 to 125 days, and after hatching, the mean number of days to start feeding (i.e. first feeding) varied between 4 and 6 days. In both endpoints there were no significant differences among treatments (i.e. normocapnia and hypercapnia; p >0.05). Juvenile survival (after 150 days post-hatching) also did no change significantly under high CO2 levels (p >0.05). Regarding energy expenditure rates and aerobic window, there were no significant differences in RMR, MMR, and AS among treatments (p-value > 0.005). In the overall, we argue that these findings are associated to the fact that S. canicula is a benthic, cosmopolitan and temperate shark usually exposed to great variations of abiotic factors, like those experienced in the highly-dynamic western Portuguese coast (with seasonal upwelling events). Although the present dissertation only investigated acclimation processes, it is plausible to assume that this shark species will not be greatly affected by future acidification conditions.

Continue reading ‘Early development and metabolic physiology of the temperate lesser spotted shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) under high CO2 levels’

Impact of climate change and contamination in the oxidative stress response of marine organisms

Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are increasing at an unprecedented rate, changing the carbonate chemistry (in a process known as ocean acidification) and temperature of the worlds ocean. Moreover, the simultaneous occurrence of highly toxic and persistent contaminants, such as mercury, will play a key role in further shaping the ecophysiology of marine organisms. Thus, the main goal of the present dissertation was to undertake the first comprehensive and comparative analysis of the biochemical strategies, namely antioxidant defense (both enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants) and protein repair and removal mechanisms, of several marine organisms – from invertebrate (Veretillum cynomorium and Gammarus locusta) to vertebrate species (Argyrosomus regius, Chiloscyllium plagiosum and Scyliorhinus canicula) – encompassing different life-stages and life-strategies to the predicted climate-mediated changes. The findings provided in the present dissertation proved that organisms’ responses were mostly underpinned by temperature (increasing lipid, protein and nucleic acid damage), that also culminated into increased mercury bioaccumulation and toxicity, while ocean acidification as a sole stressor usually played a minor role in defining species vulnerability (i.e. responsible for increased oxidative damage in the marine calcifying organisms G. locusta). Nonetheless when co-occurring with warming and contamination scenarios, acidification was usually responsible for the reduction of heavy metal accumulation and toxicity, as well as decreased warming and contamination-elicited oxidative stress. Additionally, organisms’ responses were species-specific, and organisms that usually occupy more variable environments (e.g. daily changes in abiotic conditions) usually displayed greater responses towards environmental change than organisms inhabiting more stable environments. Furthermore, and assuming the relevance of transgenerational effects, it seems that the negative effects of OA are potentially being inherited by the offspring’s, compromising the efficiency of future generations to endure the upcoming conditions.

Continue reading ‘Impact of climate change and contamination in the oxidative stress response of marine organisms’

Elevated CO2 alters behavior, growth, and lipid composition of Pacific cod larvae


• Ocean acidification has been shown to induce a range of effects on early life stages of commercially important marine fishes.

• Elevated CO2 levels strengthened behavioral phototaxis in larval Pacific cod.

• High CO2 reduced growth and energy storage during the first 2 weeks of life, but this effect was reversed by 5 weeks of age.


High-latitude seas, which support a number of commercially important fisheries, are predicted to be most immediately impacted by ongoing ocean acidification (OA). Elevated CO2 levels have been shown to induce a range of impacts on the physiology and behavior of marine fish larvae. However, these responses have yet to be characterized for most fishery species, including Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus). Based on laboratory experiments, we present a multi-faceted analysis of the sensitivity of Pacific cod larvae to elevated CO2. Fish behavior in a horizontal light gradient was used to evaluate the sensitivity of behavioral phototaxis in 4–5 week old cod larvae. Fish at elevated CO2 levels (∼1500 and 2250 μatm) exhibited a stronger phototaxis (moved more quickly to regions of higher light levels) than fish at ambient CO2 levels (∼600 μatm). In an independent experiment, we examined the effects of elevated CO2 levels on growth of larval Pacific cod over the first 5 weeks of life under two different feeding treatments. Fish exposed to elevated CO2 levels (∼1700 μatm) were smaller and had lower lipid levels at 2 weeks of age than fish at low (ambient) CO2 levels (∼500 μatm). However, by 5 weeks of age, this effect had reversed: fish reared at elevated CO2 levels were slightly (but not significantly) larger and had higher total lipid levels and storage lipids than fish reared at low CO2. Fatty acid composition differed significantly between fish reared at high and low CO2 levels (p < 0.01) after 2 weeks of feeding, but this effect diminished by week 5. Effects of CO2 on FA composition of the larvae differed between the two diets, an effect possibly related more to dietary equilibrium and differential lipid class storage than a fundamental effect of CO2 on fatty acid metabolism. These experiments point to a stage-specific sensitivity of Pacific cod to the effects of OA. Further understanding of these effects will be required to predict the impacts on production of Pacific cod fisheries.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 alters behavior, growth, and lipid composition of Pacific cod larvae’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book