Linking ocean acidification and warming to the larval development of the American lobster (Homarus americanus)

Jesica Davis Waller, University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, Walpole, ME, United States, David Fields, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, ME, United States, Richard Wahle, University of Maine, ME, United States, Halley Mcveigh, Warren Wilson College, NC, United States and Spencer Greenwood, University of Prince Edward Island, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Charlottetown, PE, Canada
The American lobster upholds the most culturally and economically iconic fishery in New England. Over the past three decades lobster landings have risen steadily in northern New England as lobster populations have shifted northward, leaving policy makers and coastal communities wondering what the future of this fishery may hold. The underlying causes of this population shift are likely due to a suite of environmental stressors including increasing temperature and ocean acidification. In this study we investigated the interactive effects of IPCC predicted temperature and pH on key aspects of larval lobster development (size, survival, development time, respiration rate, swimming speed, prey consumption and gene expression). Our experiments showed that larvae raised in the high temperature treatments (19 °C) experienced significantly higher mortality than larvae in our control treatments (16 °C) with 50% mortality occurring in the high temperature treatment one week after hatching. The larvae in these high temperature treatments developed twice as fast and experienced respiration rates that were three times higher in the third and fourth larval stages. While temperature had a distinct effect, pH treatment had few significant effects on any of our measured parameters. These data suggest that projected end-century warming will have greater adverse effects than acidification on early larval survival, despite the hurrying effect of higher temperatures on lobster larval development and increase in physiological activity. There were no significant treatment effects on carapace length, dry weight, or carbon and nitrogen content. Analysis of swimming speed and gene expression (through RNA sequencing) are in progress. Understanding how the most vulnerable life stages of the lobster life cycle responds to climate change is essential in connecting the northward geographic shifts projected by habitat quality models, and the underlying physiological and genetic mechanisms that drive their ecology.