Coronavirus Information for the UC San Diego Community

Our leaders are working closely with federal and state officials to ensure your ongoing safety at the university. Stay up to date with the latest developments. Learn more.

Assessment of ocean acidification and warming on the growth, calcification, and biophotonics of a California grass shrimp

H. californiensis image by K. Lowder
TitleAssessment of ocean acidification and warming on the growth, calcification, and biophotonics of a California grass shrimp
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLowder K.B, Allen M.C, Day JMD, Deheyn DD, Taylor J.RA
JournalIces Journal of Marine Science
Date Published2017/05
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1054-3139
Accession NumberWOS:000404450100026
Keywordsbiophotonics; calcification; carbonic-acid; color-change; colouration; crypsis; dissociation; fiddler-crab; ocean acidification; palaemonetes-pugio; sea-water; seawater; Shrimp; survival; temperature; transparency

Cryptic colouration in crustaceans, important for both camouflage and visual communication, is achieved through physiological and morphological mechanisms that are sensitive to changes in environmental conditions. Consequently, ocean warming and ocean acidification can affect crustaceans' biophotonic appearance and exoskeleton composition in ways that might disrupt colouration and transparency. In the present study, we measured growth, mineralization, transparency, and spectral reflectance (colouration) of the caridean grass shrimp Hippolyte californiensis in response to pH and temperature stressors. Shrimp were exposed to ambient pH and temperature (pH 8.0, 17 degrees C), decreased pH (pH 7.5, 17 degrees C), and decreased pH/increased temperature (pH 7.5, 19 degrees C) conditions for 7 weeks. There were no differences in either Mg or Ca content in the exoskeleton across treatments nor in the transparency and spectral reflectance. There was a small but significant increase in percent growth in the carapace length of shrimp exposed to decreased pH/increased temperature. Overall, these findings suggest that growth, calcification, and colour of H. californiensis are unaffected by decreases of 0.5 pH units. This tolerance might stem from adaptation to the highly variable pH environment that these grass shrimp inhabit, highlighting the multifarious responses to ocean acidification, within the Crustacea.


In contrast to other studied shrimp, reduced pH conditions did not appear to affect the growth, mineralization, and biophotonic properties of grass shrimp in our study, which emphasizes the variable responses of closely related species and the importance of exposure duration and habitat conditions. Combined pH and temperature stressors had a slight effect on animal growth, demonstrating the importance of using a multi-stressor approach in studies of potential organismal responses to OA. Overall, this study encourages further OA research focused on crustaceans and aspects of ecological importance.

Student Publication: