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Effects of ocean acidification on young-of-the-year golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus) survival and growth

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Abstract

Ocean acidification, a reduction in the pH of the oceans caused by increasing CO2, can have negative physiological effects on marine species. In this study, we examined how CO2-driven acidification affected the growth and survival of juvenile golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus), an important fishery species in Alaska. Juveniles were reared from larvae in surface ambient pH seawater at the Kodiak Laboratory. Newly molted early benthic instar crabs were randomly assigned to one of three pH treatments: (1) surface ambient pH ~ 8.2, (2) likely in situ ambient pH 7.8, and (3) pH 7.5. Thirty crabs were held in individual cells in each treatment for 127 days and checked daily for molting or death. Molts and dead crabs were photographed under a microscope and measured using image analysis to assess growth and morphology. Mortality was primarily associated with molting in all treatments, differed among all treatments, and was highest at pH 7.5 and lowest at ambient pH. Crabs at pH 7.5 were smaller than crabs at ambient pH at the end of the experiment, both in terms of carapace length and wet mass; had a smaller growth increment after molting; had a longer intermolt period. Carapace morphology was not affected by pH treatment. Decreased growth and increased mortality in laboratory experiments suggest that lower pH could affect golden king crab stocks and fisheries. Future work should examine if larval rearing conditions affect the juvenile response to low pH.

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Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study included as a supplement to this paper.

Code availability

The code generated during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded through the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. We thank B. Daly for rearing the juvenile crab and staff of the Kodiak Laboratory for help performing the experiments. Previous versions of this paper were improved by comments from E. Fedwa and J. Long and two anonymous reviewers. The findings and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA. Reference to trade names or commercial firms does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

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This work was funded through the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program.

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Long, W.C., Swiney, K.M. & Foy, R.J. Effects of ocean acidification on young-of-the-year golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus) survival and growth. Mar Biol 168, 126 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-021-03930-y

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