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Goh, Beverly P. L. (Beverly Pi Lee)
Environmental biomarkers, also known as early warning signals, have increasingly become a subject of interest in environmental studies. The common sea star, Archaster typicus, found in shallow sandy habitats associated with coral reefs in Singapore, was utilised to study the effects of varying treatment conditions of salinity, temperature and pH. Treatment conditions were derived from predicted future scenarios of thermal and ocean acidification conditions. Experiments were conducted to determine physiological responses of sea stars that were subjected to treatments over 24h (acute) and 120h (chronic) exposures. The biomarker responses examined included righting behaviour (time taken to right after being overturned), burrowing time and feeding responses (time taken to close stomach/mouth plate) in experimental sea stars. To validate results of physiological biomarkers, two other biomarker responses were measured from coelomic fluid extracted from the experimental sea stars. These were the cellular lysosome integrity response (Neutral Red Retention time, NRRT) and the biochemical Ferric Reducing Antioxidant Power (FRAP) assay. In acute exposure experiments, results indicated that sea stars exhibited significant differences in physiological responses under various salinity, temperature and pH treatments. At chronic exposure regimes, lethal effects were more evident, with higher mortality rates observed in all salinity and temperature treatment regimes. Results from salinity treatments showed that physiological responses in sea stars were significantly impaired at treatments of 15‰ and 50‰ salinities. Significant results were observed in NRRT and burrowing behavioural assays in temperature treatments. Treatments with pH of 7.4 and 7.2 at the acute exposure duration resulted in a significant impairment of righting ability. The acute and chronic effects of salinity fluctuations, ocean warming and acidification on A typicus were most consistently observed in the righting and burrowing behaviour assays. This indication of reduced fitness together with reduced cellular responses show a reduction in survival ability in the sea star under low salinity, high temperature and low pH conditions. Further studies could thus help us understand the effects of global warming on the physiology of organisms in various shallow water habitats.
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