Trans-life cycle acclimation to experimental ocean acidification affects gastric pH homeostasis and larval recruitment in the sea star Asterias rubens

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2018 Oct;224(2):e13075. doi: 10.1111/apha.13075. Epub 2018 May 9.


Aim: Experimental simulation of near-future ocean acidification (OA) has been demonstrated to affect growth and development of echinoderm larval stages through energy allocation towards ion and pH compensatory processes. To date, it remains largely unknown how major pH regulatory systems and their energetics are affected by trans-generational exposure to near-future acidification levels.

Methods: Here, we used the common sea star Asterias rubens in a reciprocal transplant experiment comprising different combinations of OA scenarios, to study trans-generational plasticity using morphological and physiological endpoints.

Results: Acclimation of adults to pHT 7.2 (pCO2 3500 μatm) led to reductions in feeding rates, gonad weight and fecundity. No effects were evident at moderate acidification levels (pHT 7.4; pCO2 2000 μatm). Parental pre-acclimation to pHT 7.2 for 85 days reduced developmental rates even when larvae were raised under moderate and high pH conditions, whereas pre-acclimation to pHT 7.4 did not alter offspring performance. Microelectrode measurements and pharmacological inhibitor studies carried out on larval stages demonstrated that maintenance of alkaline gastric pH represents a substantial energy sink under acidified conditions that may contribute up to 30% to the total energy budget.

Conclusion: Parental pre-acclimation to acidification levels that are beyond the pH that is encountered by this population in its natural habitat (eg, pHT 7.2) negatively affected larval size and development, potentially through reduced energy transfer. Maintenance of alkaline gastric pH and reductions in maternal energy reserves probably constitute the main factors for a reduced juvenile recruitment of this marine keystone species under simulated OA.

Keywords: acid-base regulation; digestion; echinoderm; energy allocation; energy metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Asterias / physiology*
  • Climate Change
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / chemistry
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Larva
  • Seawater / chemistry*