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

Lenz, Brittney, Fogarty, Nicole D., Figueiredo, Joana
Marine pollution bulletin 2019 v.141 pp. 70-78
Lytechinus variegatus, Strongylocentrotus nudus, acidification, additive effect, asymmetry, coral reefs, herbivores, larvae, larval development, macroalgae, metabolism, ocean acidification, ocean warming, pH, water pollution, Caribbean, Florida
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.