Impact of ocean warming and acidification on the octocoral Veretillum cynomorium

Chair: Philip Boyd


Ana Rita Lopes1,2, Marta Pimentel1, Filipa Faleiro1, Inês Rosa1, Katja Trubenbach1, Mário Diniz2, Rui Rosa1


1  MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Laboratório Marítimo da Guia, Avenida Nossa Senhora do Cabo 939, 2750-374 Cascais, Portugal

2 REQUIMTE, Departamento de Química, Centro de Química Fina e Biotecnologia, Faculdade  de  Ciências  e  Tecnologia,  Universidade  Nova  de  Lisboa,  Quinta  da Torre, 2829-516 Caparica, Portugal


Background:  Along  the  shores  of  our  planet  lies  one  of  the  most  challenging habitats on earth, the intertidal habitat. Here, where ocean meets land, the abiotic conditions vary extremely within a single day due to tidal activity. Veretillum cynomorium is an intertidal octocoral that is often exposed to severe environmental fluctuations, which induces organisms to develop the ability to withstand and adapt to such tough conditions by activating some molecular and physiological mechanisms. This organism has been showed to be able to adapt to the severe intertidal conditions, but will it be prepared for predicted ocean climate change- related conditions?

Methods: Here, we investigated the physiological mechanisms that may enable (or not) the octocoral V. cynomorium to tolerate ocean warming (7 C above summer temperature, corresponding to summer heat waves) and acidification (∆pH = 0.5 units), including the expression of heat shock proteins, antioxidant enzymes activity and cellular damage.

Findings: Our results showed that ocean warming increased HSP production, while ocean acidification was responsible for a significant increase in the activity of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione S-transferase.

Conclusions:  Overall  higher  levels  of  heat  shock  proteins  and  antioxidant responses observed under warming and/or acidified conditions point out that V. cynomorium may be under additional pressure and that warmer temperatures might have increased V. cynomorium vulnerabilities to ocean acidification. However, it seems that this octocoral is adapted to these stressors once the heat shock and antioxidant response was an effective defense against lipid damage.