Marine Biology

, 163:217 | Cite as

Habitat selection disruption and lateralization impairment of cryptic flatfish in a warm, acid, and contaminated ocean

  • Eduardo SampaioEmail author
  • Ana Luísa Maulvault
  • Vanessa M. Lopes
  • José R. Paula
  • Vera Barbosa
  • Ricardo Alves
  • Pedro Pousão-Ferreira
  • Tiago Repolho
  • António Marques
  • Rui Rosa
Original paper


Anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases is leading to significant changes in ocean physicochemical properties. Although marine organisms will have to deal with combined effects of ocean warming and acidification, little is known about the impact of interactions between these climate change variables and contaminants. Nowadays, mercury emissions are mostly of anthropogenic origin, and part of these emissions is deposited in the ocean sediment. Within this context, our goal was to determine the acclimation potential of a benthic flatfish, Solea senegalensis, to future climate change scenarios and methylmercury (MeHg) neurotoxicity. After 28 days of exposure under three-factor crossed treatments of MeHg contamination (non-contaminated and contaminated feed, 0.08 ± 0.02 and 8.51 ± 0.15 mg kg−1 dry weight, respectively), high CO2 (ΔCO2 ≈ 500 ppm), and temperature (ΔT = 4 °C), we investigated brain mercury accumulation, habitat preference, and relative/absolute lateralization, as well as acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in five brain regions. Our results indicate a differential effect of hypercapnia (decrease) on brain mercury accumulation. MeHg-contaminated flatfish displayed decreased AChE activity, impaired lateralization, and bottom choosing judgment. Contaminated fish spent significantly higher amounts of time in the complex habitat, where they could neither bury nor match the background. While warming led to higher enzymatic activity, acidification decreased Hg accumulation, but also affected AChE activity and disrupted habitat selection. Present-day MeHg environmental concentrations may lead to severe disruption of behavioral and neurological functions, which, combined with ocean warming and acidification, might further jeopardize the ecological fitness of flatfish.


Habitat Selection AChE Activity Optic Tectum MeHg Concentration Ocean Warming 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research leading to these results (as well as ES, VB, and RA) was funded from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under the ECsafeSEAFOOD project (Grant Agreement No. 311820). Sparos Lda, team for preparing the contaminated and non-contaminated feed. IPMA DivAV team from Olhão (aquaculture facilities) for providing juvenile sole specimens for the trials. The Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) supported the contract of RR and AM in the framework of the IF 2013 and IF2014 programs. FCT also funded PhD scholarships (ALM, SFRH/BD/103569/2014; VML, SFRH/BD/97633/2013; JRP, SFRH/BD/111153/2015), and by a FCT Postdoctoral scholarship (TR, SFRH/BPD/98590/2013).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures followed ARRIVE guidelines, overseen by the Portuguese National Competent Authority (Direção-Geral de Alimentação e Veterinária, DGAV). Moreover, personnel involved in this experiment had professional certification in handling and humane killing of laboratory animals by the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA).

Supplementary material

227_2016_2994_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (421 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 420 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eduardo Sampaio
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author return OK on get
  • Ana Luísa Maulvault
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Vanessa M. Lopes
    • 3
  • José R. Paula
    • 3
  • Vera Barbosa
    • 1
  • Ricardo Alves
    • 1
  • Pedro Pousão-Ferreira
    • 1
  • Tiago Repolho
    • 3
  • António Marques
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rui Rosa
    • 3
  1. 1.Divisão de Aquacultura e Valorização (DivAV)Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA, I.P.)LisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR)University of PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.MARE - Marine Environmental Science Centre, Laboratório Marítimo da GuiaFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaCascaisPortugal

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