Summer 2022

Document Type

Master's Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories


Along with warming and sea level rise, the increasing intensity of ocean acidification (OA) and hypoxia events in coastal environments is of large concern as climate change progresses. Weakened immune function, altered reproductive output, reduced aerobic scope, and hyperventilation are just some of the ways OA and hypoxia negatively affect fish. Under stress, such as OA or hypoxia, fish will produce the hormone cortisol to maintain homeostasis, so cortisol concentration can be used to determine the relative stress an animal is experiencing. This study evaluated the stress response of adult female blackeye gobies under both acute and chronic exposure to environmental stressors by measuring muscular cortisol concentrations at specific time points from fish placed in one of four different treatments: control (8.1 pH; ~9 mg/L O2), low DO (8.1 pH; 2.0 mg/L O2), low pH (7.3 pH; ~9 mg/L O2), and a combination of low DO and low pH (7.3 pH; 2.0 mg/L O2). Additionally, some larval fish rely entirely on maternally derived hormones supplied by the yolk sac immediately after hatching. An increase in cortisol in the yolk supply may cause developmental disadvantages, but there is also evidence that it can better equip offspring to face the stressors experienced by their mothers. Therefore, the relationship between maternal muscular and whole egg cortisol concentrations was investigated with females laying clutches under each of the four treatments. After spawning, clutches were split to be incubated under the same conditions their mothers experienced or the control treatment. At 1 day post hatch, offspring physiological fitness was evaluated based on morphometric characteristics and standard metabolic rate. This study observed that adult female blackeye gobies experiencing acute stress tend to have higher cortisol concentrations than those under chronic stress. While under acute stress, blackeye gobies had the strongest stress response under the low pH treatment, followed by the combined stressors, with the response to the low DO treatment being the weakest. While under chronic stress, blackeye gobies had the highest sustained cortisol values while under the combined treatment, then the low pH treatment, with the lowest values under the low DO treatment. Low DO and low pH were also found to act antagonistically on the blackeye goby stress response. When evaluating how stress is translated generationally, a positive relationship between maternal and egg cortisol concentrations was found across the four treatments. However, blackeye gobies were not able to successfully fertilize eggs under the low pH or combined treatment. In addition, clutches with higher initial cortisol concentrations showed trends of increased time to hatching and standard metabolic rate and decreased length and weight at 1 day post hatch. The results of this study suggest decreased pH and dissolved oxygen are harmful to both adult and larval blackeye gobies. Due to the disruption of successful reproduction under low pH and the developmental and physiological disadvantages under low DO, future populations of blackeye gobies could suffer greatly as anthropogenic climate change progresses.