Ocean acidification (OA) and global warming present future challenges for shell producing organisms such as mussels through reduction in the carbonate available to produce shells in these and other valuable aquaculture species. Molluscs control their shell growth through biomineralisation, but the response of the mechanisms behind biomineralisation to OA conditions are relatively unknown. It is unclear how much carbon is taken into the shell from the environment compared to the uptake through the food source. Shell production is energetically costly to molluscs and metabolic processes and energetic partitioning may affect their ability to perform the underlying mechanisms of biomineralisation under OA. It is possible that additional food consumption might alleviate some impacts caused by acidification. We assessed the ability of extra feeding to alter the impacts of OA and increased temperatures on adult Mytilus edulis. Carbon isotopes (delta 13C) were used to examine the change in biomineralisation pathway in mussels. OA did not alter the delta 13C directly in separate analyses of the shell calcite and aragonite layers, mantle tissue and extrapallial fluid. However, ambient treatments with increased temperatures altered the mussel biomineralisation pathway in the shell calcite using CO32− instead of HCO3− as the main source of carbon. The proportion of metabolic carbon uptake into the mussel shell calcite layer increased under OA, with additive effects when exposed to increased temperatures and extra feeding. The proportion of metabolic carbon uptake is higher (7%–11%) in the shell aragonite layer compared to calcite, under ambient treatments. OA initially reduced the metabolic carbon uptake into the shell aragonite, but after a period of 4-months with extra feeding, the mussels were able to adjust their metabolic carbon uptake to a level experienced under ambient treatments. This indicates that an abundance of food resources may enable changes in mussel biomineralisation pathways to compensate for any decrease in seawater inorganic carbon associated with OA. The impact of OA on phytoplankton varies from species to species, changing the structure of the community which could provide sufficient food resources to maintain metabolic carbon uptake for mussel shell growth. This study of delta 13C isotopic values has identified changes in biomineralisation pathway relating to the mussel metabolic carbon uptake from their food source, with varying results for the aragonite and calcite shell polymorphs. The implications of these findings suggest that some bivalve species with different shell composites may cope better under OA than others, demanding further study into species-specific biomineralisation pathways.
In order to allow full comparability with other ocean acidification data sets, the R package seacarb (Gattuso et al, 2021) was used to compute a complete and consistent set of carbonate system variables, as described by Nisumaa et al. (2010). In this dataset the original values were archived in addition with the recalculated parameters (see related PI). The date of carbonate chemistry calculation by seacarb is 2021-06-17.