The indirect effects of changing climate in modulating trophic interactions can be as important as the direct effects of climate stressors on consumers. The success of the herbivorous juvenile stage of the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), Acanthaster planci, may be affected by the impacts of ocean conditions on its crustose coralline algal (CCA) food. To partition the direct effects of near future ocean acidification on juvenile COTS and indirect effects through changes in their CCA food, COTS were grown in three pHT levels (7.9, 7.8, 7.6) and fed CCA grown at similar pH levels. Consumption of CCA by COTS was bolstered when the COTS were grown in low pH and when they were fed CCA grown in low pH regardless of the pH in which the COTS were reared. COTS fed CCA grown at pH 7.6 grew fastest, but the pH/pCO2 that the COTS were reared in had no direct effect on growth. Ocean acidification conditions decreased the C : N ratio and carbonate levels in the CCA. Bolstered growth in COTS may be driven by enhanced palatability, increased nutritive state and reduced defences of their CCA food. These results indicate that near future acidification will increase the success of early juvenile COTS and boost recruitment into the coral-eating life stage.
Kamya, PZ, Byrne, M, Mos, B, Hall, L & Dworjanyn, SA 2017, 'Indirect effects of ocean acidification drive feeding and growth of juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci', Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 284, no. 1856.
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