Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coastal creatures may have reduced ability to fight off infections in acidified oceans

Date:
August 5, 2010
Source:
American Physiological Society
Summary:
The ocean is filled with a soup of bacteria and viruses. Animals living in these environments are constantly under assault by pathogens and need to be able to mount an immune response to protect themselves from infection, especially if they have an injury or wound that is openly exposed to the water. Researchers are studying the effects of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide on these organisms' immune systems.

Human impact is causing lower oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels in coastal water bodies. Increased levels of carbon dioxide cause the water to become more acidic, having dramatic effects on the lifestyles of the wildlife that call these regions home. The problems are expected to worsen if steps aren't taken to reduce greenhouse emissions and minimize nutrient-rich run-off from developed areas along our coastlines.

The ocean is filled with a soup of bacteria and viruses. The animals living in these environments are constantly under assault by pathogens and need to be able to mount an immune response to protect themselves from infection, especially if they have an injury or wound that is openly exposed to the water.

Louis Burnett, professor of biology and director of the Grice Marine Laboratory of the College of Charleston, and Karen Burnett, research associate professor at Grice Marine Laboratory of the College of Charleston, study the effects of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide on organisms' immune systems. They have found that organisms in these conditions can't fight off infections as well as animals living in oxygen rich, low carbon dioxide environments.

The Burnetts will be presenting their findings at the Global Change and Global Science: Comparative Physiology in a Changing World conference from August 4-7, 2010 in Westminster, Colorado. This conference is in part sponsored by the American Physiological Society.

Decreased Ability to Fight Infection

The researchers examined fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp, and showed that all these animals have a decreased ability to fight off infection of Vibrio bacteria when subjected to low oxygen, high carbon dioxide conditions. It takes about half as much bacteria to administer a lethal dose to a creature in a low oxygen, high carbon dioxide environment.

"Our approach is exciting because traditionally physiologists haven't considered bacteria or disease as a natural environmental barrier, so it's a pretty open field," says Louis Burnett.

Apparently, if marine animals are challenged with a pathogen, a large number of their blood cells disappear within a few minutes. The blood cells clump up to attack the pathogen, but also lodge in the gills (the sea critter version of lungs), where the body gets it oxygen. The scientists see evidence that sea animals fighting off infection lower their metabolism, which slows down other important processes like making new proteins.

"Everything we see points to the fact that if an animal that mounts a successful immune response then their gill function and ability to exchange oxygen is reduced by about 40 percent, which is why they seem to be having such problems living in low oxygen conditions," says Karen Burnett. "If you add high carbon dioxide to that, it gets worse."

The researchers are now using microarrays to measure changes in gene expression in marine organisms that are exposed to bacteria under low oxygen, high carbon dioxide conditions.

"After exposure to these conditions for only a day, animals at the molecular level have given up in trying to adapt to the situation, and they are going into molecular pathways that indicate cell death," says Karen Burnett.

The coastal animals the Burnett's study live in environments where natural levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide fluctuate. Theoretically, these animals are already adapted for varied environments, and yet they still struggle with these changing conditions. It's alarming that deep-water animals may be much more affected by ocean acidification, since they are not used to the ebb and flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

"Some of the models for how the coastal organisms adapt may help researchers predict how deep water organisms are going to be affected by overall climate change too," says Louis Burnett.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Physiological Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Physiological Society. "Coastal creatures may have reduced ability to fight off infections in acidified oceans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100805142959.htm>.
American Physiological Society. (2010, August 5). Coastal creatures may have reduced ability to fight off infections in acidified oceans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100805142959.htm
American Physiological Society. "Coastal creatures may have reduced ability to fight off infections in acidified oceans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100805142959.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins