Effects of reduced seawater pH on fertilisation, embryogenesis and larval development in the Antarctic seastar Odontaster validus

The effects of ocean acidification will be pronounced in high-latitude marine communities, although little is known on how reproduction in free-spawning polar invertebrates will respond. Using the circum-Antarctic sea star Odontaster validus, we examined fertilisation, larval survival and development under a controlled seawater treatment (temperature = −0.5 °C, pH 8.1, pCO2(aq) = 326.6 μatm, TA = 2,274.2 μmol kg soln−1), two near-future pH treatments (pH 7.8 and 7.6) and an extreme treatment (pH 7.0). At a sperm concentration of 3.5 × 105 sperm ml−1, percentage of fertilisation was 98–90 % across a pH 8.1–7.0 range. At near-future pH ranges (pH 7.8 and 7.6), fertilisation was not significantly lower than in the control pH 8.1 except at the lowest sperm concentration (2.2 × 103 sperm ml−1) where fertilisation was reduced to 60 and 61 % in pH 7.6 and 7.8, respectively. Larval survival was not significantly affected by a decrease in pH of 0.3 units, but at pH 7.6 survival was significantly reduced. This difference was apparent at 9 days, and at the end of the experiment at 58 days, survival was 55 % compared with 85 % in the ambient treatment. Near-future changes to pH yielded smaller larvae, a result of both subtle differences in their morphology and slowed development rates, while larvae at pH 7.0 showed evidence of abnormal development. O. validus fertilisation and larval success declines in seawater pH conditions expected in coastal Antarctica over the coming decades, although the responses observed are within the range observed in warmer-water echinoderms.

Gonzalez-Bernat M. J., Lamare M. & Barker M., in press. Effects of reduced seawater pH on fertilisation, embryogenesis and larval development in the Antarctic seastar Odontaster validus. Polar Biology. Article.


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