Variability in larval gut pH regulation defines sensitivity to ocean acidification in six species of the ambulacraria superphylum

Marian Hu, Yung Che Tseng, Yi Hsien Su, Etienne Lein, Hae Gyeong Lee, Jay Ron Lee, Sam Dupont, Meike Stumpp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The unusual rate and extent of environmental changes due to human activities may exceed the capacity of marine organisms to deal with this phenomenon. The identification of physiological systems that set the tolerance limits and their potential for phenotypic buffering in the most vulnerable ontogenetic stages become increasingly important to make large-scale projections. Here, we demonstrate that the differential sensitivity of non-calcifyingAmbulacraria (echinoderms and hemichordates) larvae towards simulated ocean acidification is dictated by the physiology of their digestive systems. Gastric pH regulation upon experimental ocean acidification was compared in six species of the superphylum Ambulacraria.We observed a strong correlation between sensitivity to ocean acidification and the ability to regulate gut pH. Surprisingly, species with tightly regulated gastric pH were more sensitive to ocean acidification. This study provides evidence that strict maintenance of highly alkaline conditions in the larval gut of Ambulacraria early life stages may dictate their sensitivity to decreases in seawater pH. These findings highlight the importance of identifying and understanding pH regulatory systems in marine larval stages that may contribute to substantial energetic challenges under near-future ocean acidification scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20171066
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1864
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct 11


  • Echinoderm larvae
  • Ocean acidification
  • PH regulation
  • Stomach pH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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