CO2-induced fertilization impairment in Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis collected in the Arctic

Fertilization depends on distribution and aggregation patterns of sea urchins which influence gamete contact time and may potentially enhance their vulnerability to ocean acidification. In this study, we conducted fertilization experiments to assess the effects of selected pH scenarios on fertilization success of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, from Spitsbergen, Arctic. Acidification was achieved by aerating seawater with different CO2 partial pressures to represent pre-industrial and present conditions (measured ~180–425 µatm) and future acidification scenarios (~550–800, ~1,300, ~2,000 µatm). Fertilization success was defined as the proportion of successful/unsuccessful fertilizations per treatment; eggs were classified according to features of their fertilization envelope (FE), hyaline layer (HL) and achievement of cellular division. The diagnostic findings of specific pathological aberrations were described in detail. We additionally measured intracellular pH changes in unfertilized eggs exposed for 1 h to selected acidification treatments using BCECF/AM. We conclude that (a) acidified conditions increase the proportion of eggs that failed fertilization, (b) acidification may increase the risk of polyspermy due to failures in the FE formation supported by the occasional observation of multiple sperms in the perivitelline space and (c) irregular formation of the embryo may arise due to impaired formation of the HL. The decrease in fertilization success could be also related to the observed changes in intracellular pH at pCO2 ~ 1,000 μatm or higher.

Bögner D., Bickmeyer U. & Köhler A., in press. CO2-induced fertilization impairment in Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis collected in the Arctic. Helgoland Marine Research. Article.

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