Water acidification, temperature increases and changes in seawater salinity are predicted to occur in the near future. In such a global climate change (GCC) scenario, there is growing concern for the health status of both wild and farmed organisms.
Bivalve molluscs, an important component of coastal marine ecosystems, are at risk. At the immunological level, the ability of an organism to maintain its immunosurveillance unaltered under adverse environmental conditions may enhance its survival capability. To our knowledge, only a few studies have investigated the effects of changing environmental parameters (as predicted in a GCC scenario) on the immune responses of bivalves.
In the present study, the effects of both decreased pH values and increased temperature on the important immune parameters of two bivalve species were evaluated for the first time. The clam Chamelea gallina and the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, widespread along the coast of the Northwestern Adriatic Sea, were chosen as model organisms. Bivalves were exposed for 7 days to three pH values (8.1, 7.7 and 7.4) at two temperatures (22 and 28C). Three independent experiments were carried out at salinities of 28, 34 and 40 PSU. The total haemocyte count, Neutral Red uptake, haemolymph lysozyme activity and total protein levels were measured.
The results obtained demonstrated that tested experimental conditions affected significantly most of the immune parameters measured in bivalves, even if the variation pattern of haemocyte responses was not always linear. Between the two species, C. gallina appeared more vulnerable to changing pH and temperature than M. galloprovincialis.
Overall, this study demonstrated that climate changes can strongly affect haemocyte functionality in bivalves. However, further studies are needed to clarify better the mechanisms of action of changing environmental parameters, both individually and in combination, on bivalve haemocytes.
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