Effects of ocean warming and acidification on fertilization success and early larval development in the green sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus

Highlights

• Acidification delayed larval development, stunted growth, and increased asymmetry.

• Warming decreased fertilization success and accelerated larval development.

• Warming outweighed acidification and led to accelerated development.

• Acidification and warming had additive effects on fertilization and growth.

Abstract

Ocean acidification and warming are predicted to affect the early life of many marine organisms, but their effects can be synergistic or antagonistic. This study assessed the combined effects of near-future (2100) ocean acidification (pH 7.8) and warming (+3 °C) on the fertilization, larval development and growth of the green sea urchin, Lytechinus variegatus, common in tropical reefs of Florida and the Caribbean. Acidification had no effect on fertilization, but delayed larval development, stunted growth, and increased asymmetry. Warming decreased fertilization success when the sperm:egg ratio was higher (1847:1), accelerated larval development, but had no effect on growth. When exposed to both acidification and warming, fertilization rates decreased, larval development accelerated (due to increased respiration/metabolism), but larvae were smaller and more asymmetric, meaning acidification and warming had additive effects. Thus, climate change is expected to decrease the abundance of this important herbivore, exacerbating macroalgal growth and dominance on coral reefs.

Lenz B., Fogarty N. D. & Figueiredo J., 2019. Effects of ocean warming and acidification on fertilization success and early larval development in the green sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus. Marine Pollution Bulletin 141: 70-78. Article (subscription required).

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