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Embryonic Norway Lobsters in a Warmed and Acidified Ocean

Reference
Styf, H.J.K., Skold, H.N. and Eriksson, S.P. 2013. Embryonic response to long-term exposure of the marine crustacean Nephrops norvegicus to ocean acidification and elevated temperature. Ecology and Evolution 3: 5055-5065.
The Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) is a decapod crustacean, which, in the words of Styf et al. (2013), "is found on the continental shelf and slope throughout the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea," as described by Barquin et al. (1998) and Johnson et al. (2013); and according to Nofima (2012), it is the most important crustacean in all of Europe. Therefore, Styf et al. felt it important to determine how this species might fare in a warmed and lower pH ocean that is typically predicted for Earth's future by the IPCC and others.

For their experiment, the three Swedish scientists exposed berried Norway lobsters (females carrying fertilized eggs on the undersides of their abdomens) to four months of "the combination of six ecologically relevant temperatures (5-18°C) and reduced pH (by 0.4 units)," during which time they studied embryonic development of the species "by quantifying proxies for development rate and fitness including: % yolk consumption, mean heart rate, rate of oxygen consumption, and oxidative stress."

In describing their findings, Styf et al. report (1) "the rate of yolk consumption per day, as a measure of embryonic development rate, significantly increased with temperature," (2) lower pH "had no effect on development rate," (3) "pH had no effect on heart rate," (4) "there was no interaction between pH and temperature," (5) "there was no significant effect of temperature on oxidative stress when analyzed independent of embryonic age," (6) "there was a significantly higher level of oxidative stress in the control embryos compared with the embryos developed in low pH," and (7) they "observed no mortality nor abnormalities." In light of such observations, in the next to the last sentence of their paper's abstract, the three researchers conclude that "this species would benefit from global warming and be able to withstand the predicted decrease in ocean pH in the next century during their earliest life stages."

Additional References
Barquin, J., Brito, A. and Falcon, J.M. 1998. Occurrence of the Norway lobster, Nephrops norvegicus (L., 1758) (Decapoda, Nephropidae), near the Canary Islands. Crustaceana 71: 344-348.

Johnson, M.P., Lordan, C. and Power, A.M. 2013. Habitat and ecology of Nephrops norvegicus. Advances in Marine Biology 64: 27-63.

Nofima, the Norwegian Institute of Food. 2012. Fishery and Aquaculture. Tromso, Norway. Available at: http://www.nofima.no/.

Archived 18 March 2014