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

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°C, + 2°C: 1.0°C) 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°C 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°C 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.

Byrne M., Ho M. A., Koleits L., Price C., King C. K., Virtue P., Tilbrook B. & Lamare M., in press. Vulnerability of the calcifying larval stage of the Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri to near-future ocean acidification and warming. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

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