Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 439–446 | Cite as

Predicted impact of ocean acidification on a marine invertebrate: elevated CO2 alters response to thermal stress in sea urchin larvae

  • Michael J. O’DonnellEmail author
  • LaTisha M. Hammond
  • Gretchen E. Hofmann
Original Paper


Ocean acidification (OA) and the biological consequences of altered seawater chemistry have emerged as a significant environmental threat to healthy marine ecosystems. Because a more acidic ocean interferes with fixation of calcium carbonate to form shells or calcified skeletons, future ocean chemistry may significantly alter the physiology of calcifying marine organisms. These alterations may manifest themselves directly in the calcification process, or have synergistic effects with other environmental factors such as elevated temperatures. New tools permit us to explore subtle changes in gene expression patterns in response to environmental conditions. We raised sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) under conditions simulating future atmospheric CO2 levels of 540 and 970 ppm. When larvae raised under elevated CO2 conditions were subjected to 1-h acute temperature stress, their ability to mount a physiological response (as measured by expression of the molecular chaperone hsp70) was reduced relative to those raised under ambient CO2 conditions. These results represent the first use of gene expression assays to study the effects of OA on sea urchin development. They highlight the importance of looking at multiple environmental factors simultaneously as this approach may reveal previously unsuspected biological impacts of atmospheric changes.


Ocean Acidification Heat Shock Response Early Life History Stage Inducible Heat Shock Protein Ocean Acidification Condition 



We thank members of the Hofmann lab, especially M. Zippay for help with larval handling, and A. Todgham, C. Osovitz, S. Place and S. Henkel for assistance in designing the qPCR protocols. L. Miller assisted with statistics. E. Carpizo-Ituarte helped with the design of the larval culture chambers. S. Simon collected animals. This research was supported by NSF grant OCE-0425107 to GEH. This is contribution number 319 from PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans funded primarily by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. O’Donnell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • LaTisha M. Hammond
    • 3
  • Gretchen E. Hofmann
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesUniversity of WashingtonFriday HarborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine BiologyUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

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