Pteropods counter mechanical damage and dissolution through extensive shell repair
The dissolution of the delicate shells of sea butterflies, or pteropods, has epitomised discussions regarding ecosystem vulnerability to ocean acidification over the last decade. However, a recent demonstration that the organic coating of the shell, the periostracum, is effective in inhibiting dissolution suggests that pteropod shells may not be as susceptible to ocean acidification as previously thought. Here we use micro-CT technology to show how, despite losing the entire thickness of the original shell in localised areas, specimens of polar species Limacina helicina maintain shell integrity by thickening the inner shell wall. One specimen collected within Fram Strait with a history of mechanical and dissolution damage generated four times the thickness of the original shell in repair material. The ability of pteropods to repair and maintain their shells, despite progressive loss, demonstrates a further resilience of these organisms to ocean acidification but at a likely metabolic cost.
Authors: Peck, Victoria L., Oakes, Rosie L., Harper, Elizabeth M., Manno, Clara, Tarling, Geraint A.