Testing the physiological capacity of the mussel Mytilus chilensis to establish into the Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current create environmental conditions that serve as an efficient barrier to prevent the colonization of non-native species (NNS) in the marine ecosystems of Antarctica. However, warming of the Southern Ocean and the increasing number of transport opportunities are reducing the physiological and physical barriers, increasing the chances of NNS arriving. The aim of this study was to determine the limits of survival of the juvenile mussels, M. chilensis, under current Antarctic conditions and those projected under climate change. These assessments were used to define the mussels potential for establishment in the Antarctic region. Experimental mussels were exposed to four treatments: −1.5 °C (Antarctic winter), 2 °C (Antarctic summer), 4 °C (Antarctic projected) and 8 °C (control) for 80 days and a combination of physiological and transcriptomics approaches were used to investigate mussel response. The molecular responses of mussels were congruent with the physiological results, revealing tolerance to Antarctic winter temperatures. However, a higher number of regulated differentially expressed gene (DEGs) were reported in mussels exposed to Antarctic winter temperatures (−1.5 °C). This tolerance was associated with the activation of the biological processes associated with apoptosis (up regulated) and both cell division and cilium assembly (down regulated). The reduced feeding rate and the negative scope for growth, for a large part of the exposure period at −1.5 °C, suggests that Antarctic winter temperatures represents an environmental barrier to M. chilensis from the Magellanic region settling in the Antarctic. Although M. chilensis are not robust to current Antarctica thermal conditions, future warming scenarios are likely to weaken these physiological barriers. These results strongly suggest that the West Antarctic Peninsula could become part of Mytilus distributional range, especially with dispersal aided by increasing maritime transport activity across the Southern Ocean.


Publication status:
Authors: Navarro, Jorge M., Cárdenas, Leyla, Ortiz, Alejandro, Figueroa, Álvaro, Morley, Simon A. ORCIDORCID record for Simon A. Morley, Vargas-Chacoff, Luis, Leclerc, Jean-Charles, Détrée, Camille

On this site: Simon Morley
14 February, 2024
Science of The Total Environment / 921
Link to published article: