Fertilization in a suite of coastal marine invertebrates from SE Australia is robust to near-future ocean warming and acidification

Climate change driven ocean acidification and hypercapnia may have a negative impact on fertilization in marine organisms because of the narcotic effect these stressors exert on sperm. In contrast, warmer, less viscous water may have a positive influence on sperm swimming speed and so ocean warming may enhance fertilization. To address questions on future vulnerabilities we examined the interactive effects of near-future ocean warming and ocean acidification/hypercapnia on fertilization in intertidal and shallow subtidal echinoids (Heliocidaris erythrogramma, H. tuberculata, Tripneustes gratilla, Centrostephanus rodgersii), an asteroid (Patiriella regularis) and an abalone (Haliotis coccoradiata). Batches of eggs from multiple females were fertilized by sperm from multiple males in all combinations of three temperature and three pHPCO2 treatments. Experiments were placed in the setting of projected near-future conditions for southeast Australia, an ocean change hot spot. There was no significant effect of warming and acidification on the percentage of fertilization. These results indicate that fertilization in these species is robust to temperature and pHPCO2 fluctuation. This may reflect adaptation to the marked fluctuation in temperature and pH that characterises their shallow water coastal habitats. Efforts to identify potential impacts of ocean change to the life histories of coastal marine invertebrates are best to focus on more vulnerable embryonic and larval stages because of their long time in the water column where seawater chemistry and temperature have a major impact on development.

Byrne M., Soars N., Ho M., Wong E., McElroy D., Selvakumaraswamy P., Dworjanyn S., & Davis A., 2010. Fertilization in a suite of coastal marine invertebrates from SE Australia is robust to near-future ocean warming and acidification. Marine Biology 157(9):2061-2069. Article (subscription required).


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