Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists seek sea urchin's secret to surviving ocean acidification

Date:
April 9, 2013
Source:
Stanford University
Summary:
Ocean research reveals rapid evolutionary adaptations to a changing climate. Genetic variation is the key to this ability to deal with higher acidity.

Melissa Pespeni checks the fertilization rate of urchins on spawning day.
Credit: Eric Sanford

Stanford scientists have discovered that some purple sea urchins living along the coast of California and Oregon have the surprising ability to rapidly evolve in acidic ocean water -- a capacity that may come in handy as climate change increases ocean acidity. This capacity depends on high levels of genetic variation that allow urchins' healthy growth in water with high carbon dioxide levels.

Related Articles


The study, co-authored by Stephen Palumbi, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and director of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station, revealspreviously unknown adaptive variations that could help some marine species survive in future acidified seas.

"It's like bet hedging," Palumbi said. "Betting on multiple teams in the NCAA playoffs gives you a better chance of winning. A parent with genetic variation for survival in different conditions makes offspring that can thrive in different environments. In an uncertain world, it's a way to have a stake in the Final Four."

Increasing acidification is a worrisome question for the billionpeople who depend on the ocean for their sustenance and livelihoods. Which sea creatures will survive in waters that have had their chemistry altered by global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels?

The authors, including collaborators at the University of California Davis' Bodega Marine Lab, speculate in a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthat other marine species that have long dealt with environmental stresses may have a similar adaptive capacity.

If true, these capabilities could provide important clues about how to maintain robust marine populations amid the effects of acidification, climate change, overfishing and other human impacts.

Scientists have known for decades that high carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are increasing the levels of carbonic acid in the world's oceans, leading to increased acidity. Hundreds of undreddhof studies have shown that acidification at levels expected by the year 2100 can harm ocean life.

But little is known about marine species' capacity to adapt evolutionarily to this condition. The delicate embryos of marine species are especially susceptible. The West Coast oyster farm industry nearly collapsed in 2007 because of oyster larvae sensitivity to increased acidification of coastal waters.

The study examined how purple sea urchins -- creatures with the most well-studied genome of any marine species -- react to the acidification levels predicted for 2100.

The researchers raised larvae in ocean water with either low or high carbon dioxide content. They sampled the larvae at early and later stages in life and then used new DNA-sequencing and analytical tools to determine which elements of the urchins' genetic makeup changed through time in these conditions. By looking at the function of each gene that changed, researchers were able to pinpoint which types of genes were critical for survival under future conditions.

"The high CO2 larvae showed almost no negative effects, and that was a surprise," said Melissa Pespeni, the study's lead author and a former Stanford postdoctoral fellow. "They didn't suffer because among them were some individuals with the right genes to be able to grow well in those harsh conditions."

Purple sea urchins, like other West Coast marine species, normally live in cold water that wells up along the coast, bringing seasonally higher CO2 levels. The study's results suggest that this long-term environmental mosaic has led to the evolution of genetic variations enabling purple sea urchins to regulate their internal pH level in the face of elevated carbon dioxide.

"There are hundreds of West Coast species that similarly evolved in these conditions. Maybe some of these have the genetic tools to resist acidification, too," Palumbi said. "We need to learn why some species are more sensitive than others."

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Rob Jordan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. H. Pespeni, E. Sanford, B. Gaylord, T. M. Hill, J. D. Hosfelt, H. K. Jaris, M. LaVigne, E. A. Lenz, A. D. Russell, M. K. Young, S. R. Palumbi. Evolutionary change during experimental ocean acidification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1220673110

Cite This Page:

Stanford University. "Scientists seek sea urchin's secret to surviving ocean acidification." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130409111632.htm>.
Stanford University. (2013, April 9). Scientists seek sea urchin's secret to surviving ocean acidification. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130409111632.htm
Stanford University. "Scientists seek sea urchin's secret to surviving ocean acidification." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130409111632.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A grand jury indicted four former executives of Freedom Industries, the company at the center of the Jan. 9, 2014 chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia. The spill contaminated the Elk River and the water supply of 300,000 people. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uphill Battle to Tackle Indonesian Shark Fishing

Uphill Battle to Tackle Indonesian Shark Fishing

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Sharks are hauled ashore every day at a busy market on the central Indonesian island of Lombok, the hub of a booming trade that provides a livelihood for local fishermen but is increasingly alarming environmentalists. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
France's Sauternes Wine Threatened by New Train Line

France's Sauternes Wine Threatened by New Train Line

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) Winemakers in southwestern France's Bordeaux are concerned about a proposed high speed train line that could affect the microclimate required for the region's sweet wine. Duration: 01:06 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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