Age-dependent expression of stress and antimicrobial genes in the hemocytes and siphon tissue of the Antarctic bivalve, Laternula elliptica, exposed to injury and starvation.
ABSTRACT: Increasing temperatures and glacier melting at the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) are causing rapid changes in shallow coastal and shelf systems. Climate change-related rising water temperatures, enhanced ice scouring, as well as coastal sediment runoff, in combination with changing feeding conditions and microbial community composition, will affect all elements of the nearshore benthic ecosystem, a major component of which is the Antarctic soft-shelled clam Laternula elliptica. A 454-based RNA sequencing was carried out on tissues and hemocytes of L. elliptica, resulting in 42,525 contigs, of which 48 % was assigned putative functions. Changes in the expression of putative stress response genes were then investigated in hemocytes and siphon tissue of young and old animals subjected to starvation and injury experiments in order to investigate their response to sedimentation (food dilution and starvation) and iceberg scouring (injury). Analysis of antioxidant defense (Le-SOD and Le-catalase), wound repair (Le-TIMP and Le-chitinase), and stress and immune response (Le-HSP70, Le-actin, and Le-theromacin) genes revealed that most transcripts were more clearly affected by injury rather than starvation. The upregulation of these genes was particularly high in the hemocytes of young, fed individuals after acute injury. Only minor changes in expression were detected in young animals under the selected starvation conditions and in older individuals. The stress response of L. elliptica thus depends on the nature of the environmental cue and on age. This has consequences for future population predictions as the environmental changes at the WAP will differentially impact L. elliptica age classes and is bound to alter population structure.
Project description:The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is a climatically sensitive region where periods of strong warming have caused significant changes in the marine ecosystem and food-web processes. Tight coupling between phytoplankton and higher trophic levels implies that the coastal WAP is a bottom-up controlled system, where changes in phytoplankton dynamics may largely impact other food-web components. Here, we analysed the inter-decadal time series of year-round chlorophyll-a (Chl) collected from three stations along the coastal WAP: Carlini Station at Potter Cove (PC) on King George Island, Palmer Station on Anvers Island and Rothera Station on Adelaide Island. There were trends towards increased phytoplankton biomass at Carlini Station (PC) and Palmer Station, while phytoplankton biomass declined significantly at Rothera Station over the studied period. The impacts of two relevant climate modes to the WAP, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the Southern Annular Mode, on winter and spring phytoplankton biomass appear to be different among the three sampling stations, suggesting an important role of local-scale forcing than large-scale forcing on phytoplankton dynamics at each station. The inter-annual variability of seasonal bloom progression derived from considering all three stations together captured ecologically meaningful, seasonally co-occurring bloom patterns which were primarily constrained by water-column stability strength. Our findings highlight a coupled link between phytoplankton and physical and climate dynamics along the coastal WAP, which may improve our understanding of overall WAP food-web responses to climate change and variability.This article is part of the theme issue 'The marine system of the West Antarctic Peninsula: status and strategy for progress in a region of rapid change'.
Project description:The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) dominates the open-ocean circulation of the Southern Ocean, and both isolates and connects the Southern Ocean biodiversity. However, the impact on biological processes of other Southern Ocean currents is less clear. Adjacent to the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), the ACC flows offshore in a northeastward direction, whereas the Antarctic Peninsula Coastal Current (APCC) follows a complex circulation pattern along the coast, with topographically influenced deflections depending on the area. Using genomic data, we estimated genetic structure and migration rates between populations of the benthic bivalve Aequiyoldia eightsii from the shallows of southern South America and the WAP to test the role of the ACC and the APCC in its dispersal. We found strong genetic structure across the ACC (between southern South America and Antarctica) and moderate structure between populations of the WAP. Migration rates along the WAP were consistent with the APCC being important for species dispersal. Along with supporting current knowledge about ocean circulation models at the WAP, migration from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula to the Bellingshausen Sea highlights the complexities of Southern Ocean circulation. This study provides novel biological evidence of a role of the APCC as a driver of species dispersal and highlights the power of genomic data for aiding in the understanding of the influence of complex oceanographic processes in shaping the population structure of marine species.
Project description:The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has undergone significant changes in air and seawater temperatures during the last 50 years. Although highly stenotherm Antarctic organisms are expected to be severely affected by the increase of seawater temperature, high-resolution datasets of seawater temperature within coastal areas of the WAP (where diverse marine communities have been reported) are not commonly available. Here we report on within-year (2016-2017) variation in seawater temperature at three sites on Doumer Island, Palmer Archipelago, WAP. Within a year, Antarctic organisms in South Bay were exposed to water temperatures in excess of 2 °C for more than 25 days and 2.5 °C for more than 10 days. We recorded a temperature range between -1.7° to 3.0 °C. Warming of seawater temperature was 3.75 times faster after October 2016 than it was before October. Results from this study indicate that organisms at South Bay are already exposed to temperatures that are being used in experimental studies to evaluate physiological responses to thermal stress in WAP organisms. Continuous measurements of short to long-term variability in seawater temperature provides important information for parametrizing meaningful experimental treatments that aim to assess the local effects of environmental variation on Antarctic organisms under future climate scenarios.
Project description:Measurements of biogeochemical fluxes at the sediment-water interface are essential to investigate organic matter mineralization processes but are rarely performed in shallow coastal areas of the Antarctic. We investigated biogeochemical fluxes across the sediment-water interface in Potter Cove (King George Island/Isla 25 de Mayo) at water depths between 6-9 m. Total fluxes of oxygen and inorganic nutrients were quantified in situ. Diffusive oxygen fluxes were also quantified in situ, while diffusive inorganic nutrient fluxes were calculated from pore water profiles. Biogenic sediment compounds (concentration of pigments, total organic and inorganic carbon and total nitrogen), and benthic prokaryotic, meio-, and macrofauna density and biomass were determined along with abiotic parameters (sediment granulometry and porosity). The measurements were performed at three locations in Potter Cove, which differ in terms of sedimentary influence due to glacial melt. In this study, we aim to assess secondary effects of glacial melting such as ice scouring and particle release on the benthic community and the biogeochemical cycles they mediate. Furthermore, we discuss small-scale spatial variability of biogeochemical fluxes in shallow water depth and the required food supply to cover the carbon demand of Potter Cove's shallow benthic communities. We found enhanced mineralization in soft sediments at one location intermediately affected by glacial melt-related effects, while a reduced mineralization was observed at a location influenced by glacial melting. The benthic macrofauna assemblage constituted the major benthic carbon stock (>87% of total benthic biomass) and was responsible for most benthic organic matter mineralization. However, biomass of the dominant Antarctic bivalve Laternula elliptica, which contributed 39-69% to the total macrofauna biomass, increased with enhanced glacial melt-related influence. This is contrary to the pattern observed for the remaining macrofauna. Our results further indicated that pelagic primary production is able to fully supply Potter Cove's benthic carbon demand. Therefore, Potter Cove seems to be an autotrophic ecosystem in the summer season.
Project description:Antarctic marine organisms are adapted to an extreme environment, characterized by a very low but stable temperature and a strong seasonality in food availability arousing from variations in day length. Ocean organisms are particularly vulnerable to global climate change with some regions being impacted by temperature increase and changes in primary production. Climate change also affects the biotic components of marine ecosystems and has an impact on the distribution and seasonal physiology of Antarctic marine organisms. Knowledge on the impact of climate change in key species is highly important because their performance affects ecosystem functioning. To predict the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, a holistic understanding of the life history and physiology of Antarctic key species is urgently needed. DEB (Dynamic Energy Budget) theory captures the metabolic processes of an organism through its entire life cycle as a function of temperature and food availability. The DEB model is a tool that can be used to model lifetime feeding, growth, reproduction, and their responses to changes in biotic and abiotic conditions. In this study, we estimate the DEB model parameters for the bivalve Laternula elliptica using literature-extracted and field data. The DEB model we present here aims at better understanding the biology of L. elliptica and its levels of adaptation to its habitat with a special focus on food seasonality. The model parameters describe a metabolism specifically adapted to low temperatures, with a low maintenance cost and a high capacity to uptake and mobilise energy, providing this organism with a level of energetic performance matching that of related species from temperate regions. It was also found that L. elliptica has a large energy reserve that allows enduring long periods of starvation. Additionally, we applied DEB parameters to time-series data on biological traits (organism condition, gonad growth) to describe the effect of a varying environment in food and temperature on the organism condition and energy use. The DEB model developed here for L. elliptica allowed us to improve benchmark knowledge on the ecophysiology of this key species, providing new insights in the role of food availability and temperature on its life cycle and reproduction strategy.
Project description:Glacio-marine fjords occur widely at high latitudes and have been extensively studied in the Arctic, where heavy meltwater inputs and sedimentation yield low benthic faunal abundance and biodiversity in inner-middle fjords. Fjord benthic ecosystems remain poorly studied in the subpolar Antarctic, including those in extensive fjords along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Here we test ecosystem predictions from Arctic fjords on three subpolar, glacio-marine fjords along the WAP. With seafloor photographic surveys we evaluate benthic megafaunal abundance, community structure, and species diversity, as well as the abundance of demersal nekton and macroalgal detritus, in soft-sediment basins of Andvord, Flandres and Barilari Bays at depths of 436-725 m. We then contrast these fjord sites with three open shelf stations of similar depths. Contrary to Arctic predictions, WAP fjord basins exhibited 3 to 38-fold greater benthic megafaunal abundance than the open shelf, and local species diversity and trophic complexity remained high from outer to inner fjord basins. Furthermore, WAP fjords contained distinct species composition, substantially contributing to beta and gamma diversity at 400-700 m depths along the WAP. The abundance of demersal nekton and macroalgal detritus was also substantially higher in WAP fjords compared to the open shelf. We conclude that WAP fjords are important hotspots of benthic abundance and biodiversity as a consequence of weak meltwater influences, low sedimentation disturbance, and high, varied food inputs. We postulate that WAP fjords differ markedly from their Arctic counterparts because they are in earlier stages of climate warming, and that rapid warming along the WAP will increase meltwater and sediment inputs, deleteriously impacting these biodiversity hotspots. Because WAP fjords also provide important habitat and foraging areas for Antarctic krill and baleen whales, there is an urgent need to develop better understanding of the structure, dynamics and climate-sensitivity of WAP subpolar fjord ecosystems.
Project description:The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has been suffering an increase in its atmospheric temperature during the last 50 years, mainly associated with global warming. This increment of temperature trend associated with changes in sea-ice dynamics has an impact on organisms, affecting their phenology, physiology and distribution range. For instance, rapid demographic changes in Pygoscelis penguins have been reported over the last 50 years in WAP, resulting in population expansion of sub-Antarctic Gentoo penguin (P. papua) and retreat of Antarctic Adelie penguin (P. adeliae). Current global warming has been mainly associated with human activities; however these climate trends are framed in a historical context of climate changes, particularly during the Pleistocene, characterized by an alternation between glacial and interglacial periods. During the last maximal glacial (LGM?21,000 BP) the ice sheet cover reached its maximum extension on the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), causing local extinction of Antarctic taxa, migration to lower latitudes and/or survival in glacial refugia. We studied the HRVI of mtDNA and the nuclear intron ?fibint7 of 150 individuals of the WAP to understand the demographic history and population structure of P. papua. We found high genetic diversity, reduced population genetic structure and a signature of population expansion estimated around 13,000 BP, much before the first paleocolony fossil records (?1,100 BP). Our results suggest that the species may have survived in peri-Antarctic refugia such as South Georgia and North Sandwich islands and recolonized the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands after the ice sheet retreat.
Project description:In Antarctic coastal waters where nutrient limitations are low, viruses are expected to play a major role in the regulation of bloom events. Despite this, research in viral identification and dynamics is scarce, with limited information available for the Southern Ocean (SO). This study presents an integrative-omics approach, comparing variation in the viral and microbial active communities on two contrasting sample conditions from a diatom-dominated phytoplankton bloom occurring in Chile Bay in the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) in the summer of 2014. The known viral community, initially dominated by Myoviridae family (?82% of the total assigned reads), changed to become dominated by Phycodnaviridae (?90%), while viral activity was predominantly driven by dsDNA members of the Phycodnaviridae (?50%) and diatom infecting ssRNA viruses (?38%), becoming more significant as chlorophyll <i>a</i> increased. A genomic and phylogenetic characterization allowed the identification of a new viral lineage within the Myoviridae family. This new lineage of viruses infects <i>Pseudoalteromonas</i> and was dominant in the phage community. In addition, a new Phycodnavirus (PaV) was described, which is predicted to infect <i>Phaeocystis antarctica</i>, the main blooming haptophyte in the SO. This work was able to identify the changes in the main viral players during a bloom development and suggests that the changes observed in the virioplankton could be used as a model to understand the development and decay of blooms that occur throughout the WAP.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Historical factors, demography, reproduction and dispersal are crucial in determining the genetic structure of seabirds. In the Antarctic marine environment, penguins are a major component of the avian biomass, dominant predators and important bioindicators of ecological change. Populations of chinstrap penguins have decreased in nearly all their breeding sites, and their range is expanding throughout the Antarctic Peninsula. Population genetic structure of this species has been studied in some colonies, but not between breeding colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula or at the species' easternmost breeding colony (Bouvetøya). RESULTS:Connectivity, sex-biased dispersal, diversity, genetic structure and demographic history were studied using 12 microsatellite loci and a mitochondrial DNA region (HVRI) in 12 breeding colonies in the South Shetland Islands (SSI) and the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), and one previously unstudied sub-Antarctic island, 3600 km away from the WAP (Bouvetøya). High genetic diversity, evidence of female bias-dispersal and a sign of population expansion after the last glacial maximum around 10,000 mya were detected. Limited population genetic structure and lack of isolation by distance throughout the region were found, along with no differentiation between the WAP and Bouvetøya (overall microsatellite F ST ?=?0.002, p?= 0.273; mtDNA F ST =?-?0.004, p?= 0.766), indicating long distance dispersal. Therefore, genetic assignment tests could not assign individuals to their population(s) of origin. The most differentiated location was Georges Point, one of the southernmost breeding colonies of this species in the WAP. CONCLUSIONS:The subtle differentiation found may be explained by some combination of low natal philopatric behavior, high rates of dispersal and/or generally high mobility among colonies of chinstrap penguins compared to other Pygoscelis species.