California mussels (Mytilus californianus) live in beds along the western coast of the United States from Alaska to California. More than 300 other species share the beds or depend on the mussels in some way.
"Because these mussels play such an ecologically critical role, a decline in their numbers could impact a wide range of other organisms," said Brian Gaylord, associate professor of evolution and ecology at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and first author of the paper.
Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is absorbed into the ocean, increasing its acidity. That acidity has increased by almost a third since the mid 18th century.
Mussels spend the first part of their lives swimming freely as larvae, before settling onto coastal rocks to grow into adults.
In the lab, Gaylord and his colleagues raised mussels from fertilization to the point where they were ready to settle, rearing them in both normal seawater and in water with two different conditions of elevated acidity. The acidity levels were based on projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Geneva-based scientific body established by the United Nations. One of the elevated acid levels assumed continued heavy use of fossil fuels; the other assumed a more optimistic scenario.
Compared to those raised in normal seawater, the young mussels living in the more acid waters had smaller, thinner, weaker shells, and as much as a third less body mass.
Weaker shells would make them more vulnerable to predators like crabs that crush their prey, as well as to carnivorous snails that drill through shells, Gaylord said.
Smaller body size would make them more likely to dry out at low tide and less able to withstand the energetically expensive process of metamorphosis from a free-living larva to a settled shellfish.
"Together these trends suggest that we're likely to see lower survivorship of young mussels as they return to shore," Gaylord said.
Although not an important fishery, the California mussel is a vital coastal species because so many other marine creatures depend on it for food and habitat.
Coauthors of the study are: Associate Professor Eric Sanford, researcher Elizabeth Lenz, research technician Kirk Sato and graduate student Annaliese Hettinger, all of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology and Bodega Marine Lab; Assistant Professor Tessa Hill and technician Lisa Jacobs, of the UC Davis Department of Geology and Bodega Marine Lab; and Ann Russell, associate researcher at the UC Davis Department of Geology.
The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives office, and the UC Davis Academic Senate Committee on Research.
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
20.07.2017 | Information Technology
20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy