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J Exp Biol. 2019 Jun 28;222(Pt 13). pii: jeb196543. doi: 10.1242/jeb.196543.

Ocean acidification affects calcareous tube growth in adults and reared offspring of serpulid polychaetes.

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Centro de Investigación Científica y Educación Superior de Ensenada, Departmento de Ecología Marina, Carret. Tij. - Ensenada 3918, C.P. 22860 Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
University of New Orleans, Department of Biological Sciences, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70148, USA
Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche, 181 chemin du Lazaret, F-06230 Villefranche-sur-mer, France.
Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK.
Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, Sciences Po, 27 rue Saint Guillaume, F-75007 Paris, France.


The energetically costly transition from free-swimming larvae to a benthic life stage and maintenance of a calcareous structure can make calcifying marine invertebrates vulnerable to ocean acidification. The first goal of this study was to evaluate the impact of ocean acidification on calcified tube growth for two Serpulidae polychaete worms. Spirorbis sp. and Spirobranchus triqueter were collected at 11 m depth from the northwest Mediterranean Sea and maintained for 30 and 90 days at three mean pHT levels (total scale): 8.1 (ambient), 7.7 and 7.4. Moderately decreased tube elongation rates were observed in both species at pHT 7.7 while severe reductions occurred at pHT 7.4. There was visual evidence of dissolution and tubes were more fragile at lower pH but fragility was not attributed to changes in fracture toughness. Instead, it appeared to be due to the presence of larger alveoli covered in a thinner calcareous layer. The second objective of this study was to test for effects on S. triqueter offspring development. Spawning was induced, and offspring were reared in the same pH conditions that the parents experienced. Trochophore size was reduced at the lowest pH level but settlement success was similar across pH conditions. Post-settlement tube growth was most affected. At 38 days post-settlement, juvenile tubes at pHT 7.7 and 7.4 were half the size of those at pHT 8.1. The results suggest future carbonate chemistry will negatively affect the initiation and persistence of both biofouling and epiphytic polychaete tube worms.


Spirobranchus triqueter; Spirorbis sp.; Transgenerational effects; Tube worms; pH


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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