Experimental influence of pH on the early life-stages of sea urchins II: increasing parental exposure times gives rise to different responses

Many studies into the responses of early life-stages to ocean acidification utilise offspring obtained from parents reared under present-day conditions. Their offspring are directly introduced to altered-pH conditions. This study determined whether this approach is suitable by pre-exposing parent sea urchins (Psammechinus miliaris) to altered seawater pH (~1000 μatm) for several durations, spawning them and rearing their offspring to settlement. Parents acclimated when exposed to low seawater pH for extended periods (>42 d). Longer adult pre-exposures reduced larval survival and less competent offspring were removed from populations earlier than in controls. Control offspring were larger during earlier development stages (2–7 d), but smaller during later development stages (14 + d) than offspring reared under low pH conditions. Juvenile settlement levels were similar across all treatments. After 17 d, offspring sourced from parents pre-exposed to low pH for 42 and 70 d were larger than those pre-exposed for 28 d and ambient sourced offspring directly transferred to low pH. These different responses show that the use of ambient derived offspring utilised in many studies is likely not an ideal approach when assessing larval development responses via morphometric measurements and survivorship prior to settlement. This study also suggests that calcifying organisms have capacities to acclimate and possibly adapt towards conditions beyond natural rates of ocean acidification.

Suckling C. C., Clark M. S., Beveridge C., Brunner L., Hughes A. D., Harper E. M., Cook E. J., Davies A. J. & Peck L. S., in press. Experimental influence of pH on the early life-stages of sea urchins II: increasing parental exposure times gives rise to different responses. Invertebrate Reproduction & Development. Article (subscription required).

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