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High levels of carbon dioxide threaten oyster survival
Date:8/5/2010

duced growth of their shells and their soft bodies. The young oysters' shells were also more fragile and prone to breaking, potentially making them more susceptible to predators.

"Living in the high CO2 world may increase the cost of living which cuts into other energy expending pathways," says Sokolova. "Everyday maintenance becomes harder making it harder to live."

The effects on growth were less pronounced in the adult oysters since they don't grow as fast and have slower metabolisms than the juveniles.

The fact that the early life stages are more affected by high CO2, suggests that this may serve as a bottleneck for oyster decline. Sokolova says, "Expect to see huge effects on populations in the future."

The researchers found evidence that the oysters are sensing and trying to offset the affects of a high CO2 environment. The oyster's soft body covering called the mantle had increased expression of carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that regulates pH and helps make bicarbonate, which is used to make the shell. Sokolova believes that the increased levels of this enzyme show that the oysters are at least trying to compensate for the acidic conditions in response to CO2, but it doesn't seem to be enough.

Oysters Ecosystem Engineers of the Sea

Oysters live in estuaries coastal water bodies that have fresh water rivers flowing into salt water which are highly variable environments because of tides, waves and changes in salt concentration. The focus for those scientists interested in ocean acidification/climate change research generally has been on organisms in stable situations that are thought to be more affected by small changes in the environment. "People feel that oysters are tough and will tough out the changing conditions so they haven't been a primary research focus, but oysters are vulnerable too," says Sokolova.

Sokolova describes oysters as "ec
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Contact: Donna Krupa
DKrupa@the-aps.org
301-634-7209
American Physiological Society
Source:Eurekalert

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