Can prior exposure to stress enhance resilience to ocean warming in two oyster species?
Securing economically and ecologically significant molluscs, as our oceans warm due to climate change, is a global priority. South eastern Australia receives warm water in a strengthening East Australia Current and so resident species are vulnerable to elevated temperature and marine heat waves. This study tested whether prior exposure to elevated temperature can enhance resilience of oysters to ocean warming. Two Australian species, the flat oyster, Ostrea angasi, and the Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea glomerata, were obtained as adults and “heat shocked” by exposure to a dose of warm water in the laboratory. Oysters were then transferred to elevated seawater temperature conditions where the thermal outfall from power generation was used as a proxy to investigate the impacts of ocean warming. Shell growth, condition index, lipid content and survival of flat oysters and condition of Sydney rock oysters were all significantly reduced by elevated seawater temperature in the field. Flat oysters grew faster than Sydney rock oysters at ambient temperature, but their growth and survival was more sensitive to elevated temperature. “Stress inoculation” by heat shock did little to ameliorate the negative effects of increased temperature, although the survival of heat-shocked flat oysters was greater than non-heat shocked oysters. Further investigations are required to determine if early exposure to heat stress can enhance resilience of oysters to ocean warming.