Ocean acidification and temperature increase impact mussel shell shape and thickness: problematic for protection?

Susan C. Fitzer, Liberty Vittert, Adrian Bowman, Nicholas A. Kamenos, Vernon R. Phoenix, Maggie Cusack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Ocean acidification threatens organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells by potentially generating an under-saturated carbonate environment. Resultant reduced calcification and growth, and subsequent dissolution of exoskeletons, would raise concerns over the ability of the shell to provide protection for the marine organism under ocean acidification and increased temperatures. We examined the impact of combined ocean acidification and temperature increase on shell formation of the economically important edible mussel Mytilus edulis. Shell growth and thickness along with a shell thickness index and shape analysis were determined. The ability of M. edulis to produce a functional protective shell after 9 months of experimental culture under ocean acidification and increasing temperatures (380, 550, 750, 1000 μatm pCO2, and 750, 1000 μatm pCO2 + 2°C) was assessed. Mussel shells grown under ocean acidification conditions displayed significant reductions in shell aragonite thickness, shell thickness index, and changes to shell shape (750, 1000 μatm pCO2) compared to those shells grown under ambient conditions (380 μatm pCO2). Ocean acidification resulted in rounder, flatter mussel shells with thinner aragonite layers likely to be more vulnerable to fracture under changing environments and predation. The changes in shape presented here could present a compensatory mechanism to enhance protection against predators and changing environments under ocean acidification when mussels are unable to grow thicker shells. Here, we present the first assessment of mussel shell shape to determine implications for functional protection under ocean acidification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4875-4884
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number21
Early online date12 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • biomineralization
  • CO
  • mussels
  • ocean acidification
  • shell shape
  • shell thickness
  • temperature


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