Fertilization success of an arctic sea urchin species, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (O. F. Müller, 1776) under CO2-induced ocean acidification

Sea urchins as broadcasting spawners, release their gametes into open water for fertilization, thus being particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. In this study, we assessed the effects of different pH scenarios on fertilization success of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, collected at Spitsbergen, Arctic. We achieved acidification by bubbling CO2 into filtered seawater using partial pressures (pCO2) of 180, 380, 980, 1400 and 3000 μatm}. Untreated filtered seawater was used as control. We recorded fertilization rates and diagnosed morphological aberrations after post-fertilization periods of 1 h and 3 h under different exposure conditions in experiments with and without pre-incubation of the eggs prior to fertilization. In parallel, we conducted measurements of intracellular pH changes using BCECF/AM in unfertilized eggs exposed to a range of acidified seawater. We observed increasing rates of polyspermy in relation to higher seawater pCO2, which might be due to failures in the formation of the fertilization envelope. In addition, our experiments showed anomalies in fertilized eggs: incomplete lifting-off of the fertilization envelope and blebs of the hyaline layer. Other drastic malformations consisted of constriction, extrusion, vacuolization or degeneration (observed as a gradient from the cortex to the central region of the cell) of the egg cytoplasm, and irregular cell divisions until 2- to 4-cell stages. The intracellular pH (pHi) decreased significantly from 1400 μatm on. All results indicate a decreasing fertilization success at CO2 concentrations from 1400 μatm upwards. Exposure time to low pH might be a threatening factor for the cellular buffer capacity, viability, and development after fertilization.

Bögner D., Bickmeyer U. & Köhler A., 2013. Fertilization success of an arctic sea urchin species, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (O. F. Müller, 1776) under CO2-induced ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions 10: 8027-8064. Article.


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