Marine Biology

, 165:46 | Cite as

Ocean acidification affects both the predator and prey to alter interactions between the oyster Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg, 1793) and the whelk Tenguella marginalba (Blainville, 1832)

  • John M. Wright
  • Laura M. Parker
  • Wayne A. O’Connor
  • Elliot Scanes
  • Pauline M. Ross
Original paper


As the oceans acidify, marine invertebrates will experience physiological and behavioural changes that may alter how predators interact with their prey. This study assessed whether ocean acidification alters the predatory whelk Tenguella marginalba, their prey, the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, and their interactions. Oysters and whelks were exposed separately to ambient or elevated pCO2 for 6 weeks, after which, a reciprocal cross design was used to expose oysters and whelks together to ambient and elevated pCO2. Both T. marginalba and C. gigas were measured for growth, shell morphology, shell compression strength and metabolic rate. The rate at which whelks consumed oysters was also measured. We found C. gigas had weaker shells and greater SMR at elevated pCO2, but lowered its SMR when held at ambient pCO2 with T. marginalba. T. marginalba had a greater SMR and consumed more C. gigas when both the predator and prey were held at elevated pCO2. We also tested whether C. gigas responses to predator chemical cues were altered by ocean acidification. C. gigas lowered its metabolic rate in response to predator cues at ambient, but not elevated pCO2. We conclude that elevated pCO2 may increase the energy requirements of predators, as they attempt to maintain homoeostasis. Furthermore, elevated pCO2 may also alter the morphology and increase the visibility of prey. Whether the consequence of this will be a sustained increase in consumption by the predator is less certain as molluscs acclimate and the dynamics of other organisms in marine ecosystems are also altered.



We wish to acknowledge the support of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. We would also like to acknowledge the Institute of Infrastructure and Engineering at Western Sydney University for the provision of mechanical facilities. The authors would like to thank the staff and volunteers at the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute and the School of Science and Health at Western Sydney University, especially Victoria Cole, Stephan O’Connor, Kyle Johnston, Justin Kelly, Brandt Archer, Andrew Parnell, Lyne Foulkes, Linda Westmoreland and the Hawkesbury technical team. We wish to thank the reviewers for their comments which have helped to improve this manuscript. Support for the writing of this manuscript has been provided by the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney.


JM Wright was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and would like to thank Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney for funding this research project.

Compliance with ethical standards

The authors declare they have no competing interests. All animals have been sampled and treated according to the national legislation and all required permissions have been obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Wright
    • 1
  • Laura M. Parker
    • 1
  • Wayne A. O’Connor
    • 2
  • Elliot Scanes
    • 1
  • Pauline M. Ross
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life and Environmental Sciences, (F07)The University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Primary IndustriesPort Stephens Fisheries InstituteTaylors BeachAustralia

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