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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 361:161-168 (2008)  -  DOI:

Spawning synchrony and aggregative behaviour of cold-water echinoderms during multi-species mass spawnings

John H. Himmelman1,*, Clément P. Dumont1,2, Carlos F. Gaymer1,2, Catherine Vallières1, David Drolet1

1Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada
2Center for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones (CEAZA), Departamento de Biologia Marina, Universidad Catolica del Norte, Larrondo 1281, Casilla 117, Coquimbo, Chile

ABSTRACT: Although many marine invertebrates reproduce by releasing gametes into the water, major spawning events have rarely been observed for cold-water invertebrates. We documented mass spawnings by the sea star Asterias vulgaris and the ophiuroid Ophiopholis aculeata on 6 July 1996 and 2 July 1998, and by these 2 species plus a second ophiuroid Ophiura robusta and the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis on 3 July 2003. In each year, the abrupt spawning events coincided with the first major intrusion of warm surface water into a region normally dominated by cold upwelling. The behaviours of the ophiuroids and sea stars favoured fertilization success. First, they spawned from elevated surfaces, with the central disc raised, to increase suspension and mixing of gametes. Second, many individuals pseudocopulated, which involved crawling over one another in the case of the sea star, and individuals holding their central discs together in the case of the 2 ophiuroids. Models of fertilization success need to incorporate such behaviours to better understand fertilization in the sea.

KEY WORDS: Ophiopholis aculeata · Ophiura robusta · Asterias vulgaris · Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis  · Mass spawning · Behaviour · Pseudocopulation · External fertilization · Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence

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Cite this article as: Himmelman JH, Dumont CP, Gaymer CF, Vallières C, Drolet D (2008) Spawning synchrony and aggregative behaviour of cold-water echinoderms during multi-species mass spawnings. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 361:161-168.

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