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Physiological advantages of dwarfing in surviving extinctions in high-CO2 oceans

Publication Year


  • Garilli, Vittorio
  • Rodolfo-Metalpa, Riccardo
  • Scuderi, Danilo
  • Brusca, Lorenzo
  • Parrinello, Daniela
  • Rastrick, Samuel P. S.
  • Foggo, Andy
  • Twitchett, Richard J.
  • Hall-Spencer, Jason M.
  • Milazzo, Marco
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE Volume: 5 Issue: 7 Pages: 678-+ Published: 2015
1758-678X eISSN: 1758-6798

Excessive CO2 in the present-day oceanatmosphere system is causing ocean acidification, and is likely to cause a severe biodiversity decline in the future(1), mirroring effects in many past mass extinctions(2-4). Fossil records demonstrate that organisms surviving such events were often smaller than those before5, 6, a phenomenon called the Lilliput effect(7). Here, we show that two gastropod species adapted to acidified seawater at shallow-water CO2 seeps were smaller than those found in normal pH conditions and had higher mass-specific energy consumption but significantly lower whole-animal metabolic energy demand. These physiological changes allowed the animals to maintain calcification and to partially repair shell dissolution. These observations of the long-term chronic effects of increased CO2 levels forewarn of changes we can expect in marine ecosystems as CO2 emissions continue to rise unchecked, and support the hypothesis that ocean acidification contributed to past extinction events. The ability to adapt through dwarfing can confer physiological advantages as the rate of CO2 emissions continues to increase.

Author Keyword(s)

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KeyWord(s) Plus
  • CO2
  • SIZE
ESI Discipline(s)
  • Environment/Ecology
  • Geosciences
  • Social Sciences
Web of Science Category(ies)
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental Studies
  • Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences

[Garilli, Vittorio] APEMA Paleosofia Res & Educ Serv, I-90136 Palermo, Italy; [Rodolfo-Metalpa, Riccardo] Inst Rech Dev, UMR ENTROPIE Lab Excellence CORAIL, Noumea 98848, New Caledonia; [Rodolfo-Metalpa, Riccardo] IAEA EL, MC-98000 Monaco, Monaco; [Scuderi, Danilo] Univ Catania, BIOMLG Dept Biol Geol & Environm Sci, I-95032 Catania, Italy; [Brusca, Lorenzo] INGV, Sez Palermo, I-90146 Palermo, Italy; [Parrinello, Daniela] Univ Palermo, STEBICEF Dipartimento Sci & Tecnol Biol Chim & Fa, I-90123 Palermo, Italy; [Rastrick, Samuel P. S.] IMR, N-5817 Bergen, Norway; [Foggo, Andy; Hall-Spencer, Jason M.] Univ Plymouth, Sch Marine Sci & Engn, MBERC, Plymouth PL4 8AA, Devon, England; [Twitchett, Richard J.] NHM, London SW7 5BD, England; [Milazzo, Marco] Univ Palermo, DiSTeM Dept Earth & Marine Sci, I-90123 Palermo, Italy

Reprint Adress

Garilli, V (reprint author), APEMA Paleosofia Res & Educ Serv, Via Alla Falconara 34, I-90136 Palermo, Italy.

  • France
  • Italy
  • Monaco
  • Norway
  • United Kingdom
CNRS - Adress(es)

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