Infoscience

Journal article

Can multi-generational exposure to ocean warming and acidification lead to the adaptation of life-history and physiology in a marine metazoan?

Ocean warming and acidification are concomitant global drivers that are currently threatening the survival of marine organisms. How species will respond to these changes depends on their capacity for plastic and adaptive responses. Little is known about the mechanisms that govern plasticity and adaptability or how global changes will influence these relationships across multiple generations. Here, we exposed the emerging model marine polychaete Ophryotrocha labronica to conditions simulating ocean warming and acidification, in isolation and in combination over five generations to identify: (i) how multiple versus single global change drivers alter both juvenile and adult life-traits; (ii) the mechanistic link between adult physiological and fitness-related life-history traits; (iii) whether observed phenotypic changes observed over multiple generations are of plastic and/or adaptive origin. Two juvenile (developmental rate; survival to sexual maturity) and two adult (average reproductive body size; fecundity) life-history traits were measured in each generation, in addition to three physiological (cellular reactive oxygen species content, mitochondrial density; mitochondrial capacity) traits. We found that multi-generational exposure to warming alone caused an increase in: juvenile developmental rate, reactive oxygen species production and mitochondrial density and decreases in: average reproductive body size, fecundity and fluctuations in mitochondrial capacity, relative to control conditions. While exposure to ocean acidification alone, had only minor effects on juvenile developmental rate. Remarkably, when both drivers of global change were present, only mitochondrial capacity was significantly affected, suggesting that ocean warming and acidification act as opposing vectors of stress across multiple generations.

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