Cross‐generational response of a tropical sea urchin to global change and a selection event in a 43‐month mesocosm study

Long‐term experimental investigations of transgenerational plasticity (TGP) and transgenerational acclimatization to global change are sparse in marine invertebrates. Here, we test the effect of ocean warming and acidification over a 25‐month period of Echinometra sp. A sea urchins whose parents were acclimatized at ambient or one of two near‐future (projected mid‐ and end‐ of the 21st century) climate scenarios for 18 months. Several parameters linked to performance exhibited strong effects of future ocean conditions at 9 months of age. The Ambient‐Ambient group (A‐A, both F0 and F1 at ambient conditions) was significantly larger (21%) and faster in righting response (31%) compared to other groups. A second set of contrasts revealed near‐future scenarios caused significant negative parental carryover effects. Respiration at 9 months was depressed by 59% when parents were from near‐future climate conditions, and righting response was slowed by 28%. At ten months, a selective pathogenic mortality event lead to significantly higher survival rates of A‐A urchins. Differences in size and respiration measured prior to the mortality were absent after the event, while a negative parental effect on righting (29% reduction) remained. The capacity to spawn at the end of the experiment was higher in individuals with ambient parents (50%) compared to other groups (21%) suggesting persistent parental effects. Obtaining different results at different points in time illustrates the importance of longer‐term and multi‐generation studies to investigate effects of climate change. Given some animals in all groups survived the pathogenic event and that effects on physiology (but not behavior) among groups were eliminated after the mortality, we suggest that similar events could constitute selective sweeps, allowing genetic adaptation. However, given the observed negative parental effects and reduced potential for population replenishment it remains to be determined if selection would be sufficiently rapid to rescue this species from climate change effects.

Uthicke S., Patel F., Petrik C., Watson S.‐A., Karelitz S. & Lamare M., in press. Cross‐generational response of a tropical sea urchin to global change and a selection event in a 43‐month mesocosm study. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).


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