MEPS 293:109-118 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps293109

Effects of long-term moderate hypercapnia on acid–base balance and growth rate in marine mussels Mytilus galloprovincialis

Basile Michaelidis1,*, Christos Ouzounis1, Andreas Paleras1, Hans O. Pörtner2

1Laboratory of Animal Physiology, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, School of Biology, Aristotle Universityof Thessaloniki, 54006 Thessaloniki, Greece
2Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar-und Meeresforschung, Ökophysiologie und Ökotoxikologie, Postfach 120161, 27515 Bremerhaven, Germany *Email:

ABSTRACT: In the context of future scenarios of progressive accumulation of anthropogenic CO2 in marine surface waters, the present study addresses the effects of long-term hypercapnia on a Mediterranean bivalve, Mytilus galloprovincialis. Sea-water pH was lowered to a value of 7.3 by equilibration with elevated CO2 levels. This is close to the maximum pH drop expected in marine surface waters during atmospheric CO2 accumulation. Intra- and extracellular acid–base parameters as well as changes in metabolic rate and growth were studied under both normocapnia and hypercapnia. Long-term hypercapnia caused a permanent reduction in haemolymph pH. To limit the degree of acidosis, mussels increased haemolymph bicarbonate levels, which are derived mainly from the dissolution of shell CaCO3. Intracellular pH in various tissues was at least partly compensated; no deviation from control values occurred during long-term measurements in whole soft-body tissues. The rate of oxygen consumption fell significantly, indicating a lower metabolic rate. In line with previous reports, a close correlation became evident between the reduction in extracellular pH and the reduction in metabolic rate of mussels during hypercapnia. Analysis of frequency histograms of growth rate revealed that hypercapnia caused a slowing of growth, possibly related to the reduction in metabolic rate and the dissolution of shell CaCO3 as a result of extracellular acidosis. In addition, increased nitrogen excretion by hypercapnic mussels indicates the net degradation of protein, thereby contributing to growth reduction. The results obtained in the present study strongly indicate that a reduction in sea-water pH to 7.3 may be fatal for the mussels. They also confirm previous observations that a reduction in sea-water pH below 7.5 is harmful for shelled molluscs.


KEY WORDS: Hypercapnia · Ocean CO2 accumulation · Marine bivalve · Acid–base balance · Growth rate · Oxygen consumption · Metabolic depression


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