Growth attenuation with developmental schedule progression in embryos and early larvae of Sterechinus neumayeri raised under elevated CO2

The Southern Ocean, a region that will be an ocean acidification hotspot in the near future, is home to a uniquely adapted fauna that includes a diversity of lightly-calcified invertebrates. We exposed the larvae of the echinoid Sterechinus neumayeri to environmental levels of CO2 in McMurdo Sound (control: 410 µatm, Ω = 1.35) and mildly elevated pCO2 levels, both near the level of the aragonite saturation horizon (510 µatm pCO2, Ω = 1.12), and to under-saturating conditions (730 µatm, Ω = 0.82). Early embryological development was normal under these conditions with the exception of the hatching process, which was slightly delayed. Appearance of the initial calcium carbonate (CaCO3) spicule nuclei among the primary mesenchyme cells of the gastrulae was synchronous between control and elevated pCO2 treatments. However, by prism (7 days after the initial appearance of the spicule nucleus), elongating arm rod spicules were already significantly shorter in the highest CO2 treatment. Unfed larvae in the 730 µatm pCO2 treatment remained significantly smaller than unfed control larvae at days 15–30, and larvae in the 510 µatm treatment were significantly smaller at day 20. At day 30, the arm lengths were more differentiated between 730 µatm and control CO2 treatments than were body lengths as components of total length. Arm length is the most plastic morphological aspect of the echinopluteus, and appears to exhibit the greatest response to high pCO2/low pH/low carbonate, even in the absence of food. Thus, while the effects of elevated pCO2 representative of near future climate scenarios are proportionally minor on these early developmental stages, the longer term effects on these long-lived invertebrates is still unknown.

Yu P. C., Sewell M. A., Matson P. G., Rivest E. B., Kapsenberg L., Hofmann G., 2013. Growth attenuation with developmental schedule progression in embryos and early larvae of Sterechinus neumayeri raised under elevated CO2. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52448. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052448. Article.

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