Articles | Volume 6, issue 8
07 Aug 2009
 | 07 Aug 2009

The subtle effects of sea water acidification on the amphipod Gammarus locusta

C. Hauton, T. Tyrrell, and J. Williams

Abstract. We report an investigation of the effects of increases in pCO2 on the survival, growth and molecular physiology of the neritic amphipod Gammarus locusta which has a cosmopolitan distribution in estuaries. Amphipods were reared from juvenile to mature adult in laboratory microcosms at three different levels of pH in nominal range 8.1–7.6. Growth rate was estimated from weekly measures of body length. At sexual maturity the amphipods were sacrificed and assayed for changes in the expression of genes coding for a heat shock protein (hsp70 gene) and the metabolic enzyme glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (gapdh gene). The data show that the growth and survival of this species is not significantly impacted by a decrease in sea water pH of up to 0.5 units. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis indicated that there was no significant effect of growth in acidified sea water on the sustained expression of the hsp70 gene. There was a consistent and significant increase in the expression of the gapdh gene at a pH of ~7.5 which, when combined with observations from other workers, suggests that metabolic changes may occur in response to acidification. It is concluded that sensitive assays of tissue physiology and molecular biology should be routinely employed in future studies of the impacts of sea water acidification as subtle effects on the physiology and metabolism of coastal marine species may be overlooked in conventional gross "end-point" studies of organism growth or mortality.

Final-revised paper