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Vulnerability of the calcifying larval stage of the Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri to near-future ocean acidification and warming

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 18:49 authored by Byrne, M, Ho, MA, Koleits, LJ, Cassandra PriceCassandra Price, King, CK, Patti VirtuePatti Virtue, Tilbrook, B, Lamare, M
Stenothermal polar benthic marine invertebrates are highly sensitive to environmental perturbations but little is known about potential synergistic effects of concurrent ocean warming and acidification on development of their embryos and larvae. We examined the effects of these stressors on development to the calcifying larval stage in the Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri in embryos reared in present and future (2100+) ocean conditions from fertilization. Embryos were reared in 2 temperature (ambient: -1.0 Celsius degree, + 2 Celsius degree : 1.0 Celsius degree) and 3 pH (ambient: pH 8.0, -0.2-0.4 pH units: 7.8,7.6) levels. Principle coordinates analysis on five larval metrics showed a significant effect of temperature and pH on the pattern of growth. Within each temperature, larvae were separated by pH treatment, a pattern primarily influenced by larval arm and body length. Growth was accelerated by temperature with a 20-28% increase in postoral (PO) length at +2 Celsius degree across all pH levels. Growth was strongly depressed by reduced pH with a 8-19% decrease in PO length at pH 7.6-7.8 at both temperatures. The boost in growth caused by warming resulted in larvae that were larger than would be observed if acidification was examined in the absence of warming. However, there was no significant interaction between these stressors. The increase in left-right asymmetry and altered body allometry indicated that decreased pH disrupted developmental patterning and acted as a teratogen (agent causing developmental malformation). Decreased developmental success with just a 2 Celsius degree warming indicates that development in S. neumayeri is particularly sensitive to increased temperature. Increased temperature also altered larval allometry. Altered body shape impairs swimming and feeding in echinoplutei. In the absence of adaptation, it appears that the larval phase may be a bottleneck for survivorship of S. neumayeri in a changing ocean in a location where poleward migration to escape inhospitable conditions is not possible.


Publication title

Global Change Biology










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

Copyright 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments

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