Oysters in a Changing Ocean: Effects of acidification and warming on Olympia oyster larval swimming and growth

Jake Lawlor and Shawn Arellano

Shannon Point Marine Center, Western Washington University


Increased anthropogenic input of CO2 in the atmosphere are causing a myriad of complications for marine organisms; two such problems of particular interest are ocean acidification and temperature rise. Acidification decreases the amount of calcium carbonate in water for organisms to use in shell building, and temperature changes may add to this stress. Studies with multiple stressors are essential to study because oftentimes stressors work in a synergistic manner, meaning combined impact is greater than sum of each individual part. By manipulating temperature and CO2, we can create a more realistic picture of ocean conditions.

Acidification presents certain difficulties to calcifying invertebrates. Olynpia oysters, specifically, are one calcifying invertebrate that has been a topic of restoration interest in the Puget Sound region in recent decades. Morphological and physiological studies of calcifying larvae are fairly easy to come by, but behavioral studies are much less common. In this study, we aim to quantify paired effects of acidification and warming on larval swimming behavior and growth.

Changes in morphology can impact swimming ability and energy expenditure or larvae. Since oysters are sessile after larval stage, they depend on their swimming larvae to disperse, find new suitable environments, and connect populations. For these reasons, even small changes in larval swimming may have large impacts on populations.
Page Updated 05.18.2015