Preprint Article Version 1 NOT YET PEER-REVIEWED

Environmental Tipping Points for Sperm Motility, Fertilization, and Embryonic Development in the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, Acanthaster cf. solaris

  1. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
  2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
  3. Academic Environmental Corporation, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Version 1 : Received: 30 November 2016 / Approved: 1 December 2016 / Online: 1 December 2016 (11:01:19 CET)

How to cite: Caballes, C.; Pratchett, M.; Raymundo, M.; Rivera-Posada, J. Environmental Tipping Points for Sperm Motility, Fertilization, and Embryonic Development in the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, Acanthaster cf. solaris. Preprints 2016, 2016120010 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201612.0010.v1). Caballes, C.; Pratchett, M.; Raymundo, M.; Rivera-Posada, J. Environmental Tipping Points for Sperm Motility, Fertilization, and Embryonic Development in the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, Acanthaster cf. solaris. Preprints 2016, 2016120010 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201612.0010.v1).

Abstract

For broadcast spawning invertebrates such as the crown-of-thorns starfish, early life history stages (from spawning to settlement) may be exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions, and could have a major bearing on reproductive success and population replenishment. Arrested development in response to multiple environmental stressors at the earliest stages can be used to define lower and upper limits for normal development. Here, we compared sperm swimming speeds and proportion of motile sperm and rates of fertilization and early development under a range of environmental variables (temperature: 20-36°C, salinity: 20-34 psu, and pH: 7.6-8.2) to identify environmental tipping points and thresholds for reproductive success. We also tested the effects of water-soluble compounds derived from eggs on sperm activity. Our results demonstrate that gametes, fertilization, and early development are robust to a wide range of temperature, salinity, and pH levels that are outside the range found at the geographical limits of adult distribution and can tolerate environmental conditions that exceed expected anomalies as a result of climate change. Water-soluble compounds associated with eggs also enhance sperm activity, particularly in environmental conditions where sperm motility is initially limited. These findings suggest that fertilization and embryonic development of crown-of-thorns starfish are tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions, though environmental constraints on recruitment success may occur at later ontogenic stages.

Subject Areas

fertilization; cleavage; gastrulation; sperm motility; temperature; salinity; pH; Acanthaster outbreaks

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