How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic

The Ability of Tropical Reef Fish to Acclimate to Global Warming

Paper Reviewed
Veilleux, H.D., Ryu, T., Donelson, J.M., van Herwerden, L., Seridi, L., Ghosheh, Y., Berumen, M.L., Leggat, W., Ravasi, T. and Munday, P.L. 2015. Molecular processes of transgenerational acclimation to a warming ocean. Nature Climate Change 5: 1074-1078.

Introducing their study, Veilleux et al. (2015) write that "some animals have the remarkable capacity to acclimate across generations to projected future climate change," citing the works of Donelson et al. (2012), Miller et al. (2012), Salinas and Munch (2012) and Shama et al. (2014), although they note that "the underlying molecular processes are unknown." And, therefore, they went on to sequence and assemble "de novo transcriptomes of adult tropical reef fish exposed developmentally or trans-generationally to projected future ocean temperatures and correlated the resulting expression profiles with acclimated metabolic traits from the same fish."

In the course of this undertaking, the ten researchers report that they "identified 69 contigs [overlapping DNA sequences] representing 53 key genes involved in thermal acclimation of aerobic capacity," while also noting that "metabolic genes were among the most upregulated trans-generationally, suggesting shifts in energy production for maintaining performance at elevated temperatures." And they further add that "immune- and stress-responsive genes were upregulated trans-generationally, indicating a new complement of genes allowing the second generation of fish to better cope with elevated temperatures," among which were genes involved in "enhanced fatty acid oxidation, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, and changes in genes involved in cytoprotection, immunity, organogenesis and cellular organization."

In concluding the report of what they learned from their experiments, therefore, Veilleux et al. were able to state that "the plasticity of these genes and their strong correlation to known acclimating phenotypic traits suggests that they may be critical in aiding reef fishes, and possibly other marine organisms, to survive in a warmer future environment."

Donelson, J.M., Munday, P.L., McCormick, M.I. and Pitcher, C.R. 2012. Rapid transgenerational acclimation of a tropical reef fish to climate change. Nature Climate Change 2: 30-32.

Miller, G.M., Watson, S.-A., Donelson, J.M., McCormick, M.I. and Munday, P.L. 2012. Parental environment mediates impacts of increased carbon dioxide on a coral reef fish. Nature Climate Change 2: 858-861.

Salinas, S. and Munch, S.B. 2012. Thermal legacies: Transgenerational effects of temperature on growth in a vertebrate. Ecology Letters 15: 159-163.

Shama, L.N.S., Strobel, A., Mark, F.C. and Wegner, K.M. 2014. Transgenerational plasticity in marine sticklebacks: Maternal effects mediate impacts of a warming ocean. Functional Ecology 28: 1482-1493.

Posted 21 April 2016