Morphological plasticity in a calcifying modular organism: Evidence from an in situ transplant experiment in a natural CO

Chiara Lombardi, Silvia Cocito, Maria Cristina Gambi, Paul D. Taylor

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Understanding is currently limited of the biological processes underlying the responses of modular organisms to climate change and the potential to adapt through morphological plasticity related to their modularity. Here, we investigate the effects of ocean acidification and seawater warming on the growth, life history and morphological plasticity in the modular bryozoan Calpensia nobilis using transplantation experiments in a shallow Mediterranean volcanic CO2vents system that simulates pH values expected for the year 2100. Colonies exposed at vent sites grew at approximately half the rate of those from the control site. Between days 34 and 48 of the experiment, they reached a possible ‘threshold’, due to the combined effects of exposure time and pH. Temperature did not affect zooid length, but longer zooids with wider primary orifices occurred in low pH conditions close to the vents. Growth models describing colony development under different environmental scenarios suggest that stressed colonies of C. nobilis reallocate metabolic energy to the consolidation and strengthening of existing zooids. This is interpreted as a change in life-history strategy to support persistence under unfavourable environmental conditions. Changes in the skeletal morphology of zooids evident in C. nobilis during short-time (87 days) exposure experiments reveal morphological plasticity that may indicate a potential to adapt to the more acidic Mediterranean predicted for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number140413
Pages (from-to)-
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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