Photoperiod, temperature, and food availability as drivers of the annual reproductive cycle of the sea urchin Echinometra sp. from the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea)

Omri Bronstein*, Yossi Loya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

In spite of the efforts invested in the search for the environmental factors that regulate discrete breeding periods in marine invertebrates, they remain poorly understood. Here, we present the first account of the annual reproductive cycle of the pantropical sea urchin Echinometra sp. from the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat (Red Sea) and explore some of the main environmental variables that drive echinoid reproduction. Monthly measurements of gonado-somatic indexes and histological observations of 20 specimens revealed a single seasonal reproductive cycle, with gametogenesis in males and females being highly synchronized. Gametogenesis commenced in June and peak spawning occurred between September and October. Gonado-somatic indexes were significantly correlated with seawater temperatures but not with photoperiod. The latter cycle lagged behind the gonado-somatic cycle by two months, suggesting that the onset of gametogenesis corresponds to shortening day length, while spawning may be driven by warming seawater temperatures. Gonads remained quiescent throughout the winter and spring (January through May) when temperatures were at their lowest. Chlorophyll-a concentrations increased significantly in the months following spawning (October through January). These high concentrations are indicative of high phytoplankton abundance and may reflect the increase in food availability for the developing larvae. Of the external test dimensions, length presented the highest correlation to body weight, indicating length as the best predictor for body size in Echinometra. Neither sexual dimorphism nor size differences between males and females were detected, and the sex ratios were approximately 1:1 in three distant Echinometra populations. Environmentally regulated reproduction, as occurs in sea urchins, might face severe outcomes due to anthropogenic disturbances to the marine environment. Consequently, there is a need to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms that drive and regulate this process in broadcast-spawning species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-289
Number of pages15
JournalCoral Reefs
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2015

Funding

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation
Israel Science Foundation

    Keywords

    • Chlorophyll-a
    • Photoperiod
    • Red Sea
    • Reproductive cycle
    • Sea urchins
    • Temperature

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