Transgenerational effects and phenotypic plasticity in sperm and larvae of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus under ocean acidification


  • Transgenerational effects of OA were studied in P. lividus sperm and larvae
  • Gametogenesis under OA resulted in increased sperm ATP content
  • Slower decrease of swimming velocity was found in sperm from males kept at low pH
  • Parental exposure to OA decreased larval survival but increased larval growth
  • Parental pH affected offspring performances more than post-spawning pH


In marine organisms, differing degree of sensitivity to ocean acidification (OA) is expected for each life stage, and disturbance at one stage can carry over into the following stage or following generation. In this study we investigated phenotypic changes of sperm and larvae of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus in response to different pH conditions (8.0, 7.7, 7.4) experienced by the parents during gametogenesis. In sperm from two-months exposed males, sperm motility, velocity, ATP content, ATP consumption and respiration rate were evaluated at three pH values of the activating medium (8.0, 7.7 and 7.4). Moreover, larvae from each parental group were reared at pH 8.0 and 7.7 for 20 days and larval mortality and growth were then assessed. Sperm motility and respiration rate were not affected either by exposure of males to low pH or by the post-activation pH. Sperm velocity did not differ among post-activation pH values in all sperm groups, but it decreased slower in sperm developed under acidified conditions, suggesting the presence of positive carryover effect on sperm longevity. This positive carryover effect of exposure of males to low pH values was highlighted also for the sperm ATP content, which was higher in these groups of sperm. ATP consumption rate was affected by post-activation pH with higher values at pH 8.0 in sperm from males maintained at control condition and pH 7.7 while the energy consumption appeared to be differently modulated at different experimental conditions. A negative carry over effect of OA was observed on survival of larvae from parents acclimated at pH 7.4 and additive negative effects of both parental and larval exposure to low pH can be suggested. In all groups of larvae, decreased somatic growth was observed at low rearing pH, thus larvae from parents maintained at low pH did not show an increased capability to cope with OA.

Marčeta T., Locatello L., Alban S., Hassan M. S. A., Azmi N.-N. N. M., Finos L., Badocco D. & Marin M. G., 2022. Transgenerational effects and phenotypic plasticity in sperm and larvae of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus under ocean acidification. Aquatic Toxicology: 106208. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2022.106208. Article (subscription required).

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