Fish adapt to ocean acidification by modifying gene expression

By Eric Lee
May 28th 2021

To survive in a reduced pH environment, marine organisms have to adjust their physiology which, at the molecular level, is achieved by modifying the expression of genes. The study of such changes in gene expression can aid in revealing the adaptive mechanisms of life under predicted future ocean acidification conditions

Researchers from Research Division for Ecology & Biodiversity of The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS), jointly with researchers from The University of Adelaide, travelled to a remote volcanic island of New Zealand called White Island. They collected samples from CO2 seeps and nearby locations, and analysed molecular data from a fish species (the Common triplefin) with ecological evidence of being successfully adapted to acidified environments at CO2 volcanic vents. The findings were recently published in a peer-reviewed open access journal Evolutionary Applications.

“The findings of this study imply that one of the more relevant things in terms of the capacity of the marine species to respond to future changes in their environmental conditions is their current genetic variation. Thus, the assessment of the levels of genetic diversity of different marine species is the most important, and we are currently working on it,” said Dr Natalia PETIT-MARTY, first author of the paper and Postdoctoral Fellow in the group led by Dr Celia SCHUNTER at Research Division for Ecology and Biodiversity & SWIMS, HKU.

“We are very fortunate to get to visit these remote places providing us with a glimpse of how the oceans may look like in the future. To make sure our findings are applicable across different marine ecosystems, we also travelled to CO2 vents at tropical coral reefs in Papua New Guinea and rocky reefs in the Mediterranean Sea, and will continue our research on the adaptive potential of marine fishes to ocean acidification,” added Dr Celia SCHUNTER, Assistant Professor at Research Division for Ecology and Biodiversity & Swire Institute of Marine Science, HKU.

The complete study was first published in Evolutionary Applications on April 8th, 2021. N. Petit-Marty, I. Nagelkerken, S. D. Connell, and C. Schunter. (2021). Natural CO2 seeps reveal adaptive potential to ocean acidification in fish.

The research paper can be accessed from here.

News links: