Marine Biology

, 164:191 | Cite as

The influence of high pCO2 on otolith shape, chemical and carbon isotope composition of six coastal fish species in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent

  • Alice MirasoleEmail author
  • Bronwyn May Gillanders
  • Patrick Reis-Santos
  • Fausto Grassa
  • Giorgio Capasso
  • Giovanna Scopelliti
  • Antonio Mazzola
  • Salvatrice Vizzini
Original paper


Naturally acidified environments, such as CO2 vents, are important sites to evaluate the potential effects of increased ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and biota. Here we assessed the effect of high CO2/low pH on otolith shape and chemical composition of six coastal fish species (Chromis chromis, Coris julis, Diplodus vulgaris, Gobius bucchichi, Sarpa salpa, Symphodus ocellatus) in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent. Taking into consideration the major and trace elements found near the vent and the gradient of dissolved inorganic carbon, we compared the otolith chemical signatures of fish exposed long-term to elevated CO2 emissions and reduced pH (mean pH 7.8) against fish living in two control sites (mean pH 8.2). A number of element:Ca ratios (Na:Ca, Mg:Ca, Mn:Ca, Cu:Ca, Zn:Ca, Sr:Ca, Ba:Ca and Pb:Ca), along with isotope ratios, were measured in otoliths (δ13C and δ18O) and water (δ13CDIC) samples. Additionally, we performed otolith outline shape and morphometric analysis to evaluate the effect of high CO2/low pH. We observed species-specific responses with regards to both shape and chemical signatures. Significant differences among sites were found in otolith shape (elliptical Fourier descriptors) of G. bucchichi and D. vulgaris. Elemental and isotopic signatures were also significantly different in these site attached species, though not for the other four. Overall, the carbon isotopic composition seems a good proxy to follow pH gradient in naturally acidified area. Ultimately, besides improving our knowledge of the effects of high CO2/low pH on otoliths, the present results contribute to our understanding on their use as natural tags.



The authors wish to thank Valentina Costa and Giulia Visconti for help in field activity, and Chris Izzo and Cecilia Tramati for otolith and seawater analysis, respectively. This study had the support of the University of Palermo (FFR project), and the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) via UID/MAR/04292/2013 and SFRH/BPD/95784/2013 postdoctoral grant to PRS.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Marine SciencesUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.INGV, Sezione di PalermoPalermoItaly
  5. 5.CoNISMaRomeItaly

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