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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 383:113-125 (2009)  -  DOI:

Overview of phenotypic plasticity in echinoid larvae, 'Echinopluteus transversus' type vs. typical echinoplutei

Natalie Anne Soars*, Thomas Aelfwyn Arthur Prowse, Maria Byrne

Department of Anatomy and Histology and Bosch Institute, F13, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

ABSTRACT: Many sea urchin echinoplutei exhibit phenotypic plasticity, increasing arm length to enhance food capture in nutrient poor conditions. We tested this phenomenon in species with contrasting larval forms reared in similar feeding conditions. Heliocidaris tuberculata has a typical echinopluteus larva with 4 pairs of arms while Centrostephanus rodgersii larvae have only 1 pair of arms (‘Echinopluteus transversus’ type larva). Larvae were exposed to high, medium and no food treatments. The ratio ‘postoral arm length’ to ‘midline body length’ (PO:MBL) was used to document phenotypic plasticity. Fed H. tuberculata larvae developed short postoral arms and low PO:MBL, while starved larvae developed long postoral arms and high PO:MBL, indicative of plastic arm growth. In contrast, well fed C. rodgersii larvae had the longest arms and high PO:MBL, indicating the absence of plastic arm growth. Taking MBL into account, ANCOVA revealed that differences among treatments were due to PO. The hypothesis that starved C. rodgersii larvae would develop long arms was not supported. Principal component analysis confirmed that larvae in different food treatments had distinct morphologies and that H. tuberculata and C. rodgersii had opposite growth patterns with respect to food treatment. We suggest that ‘Echinopluteus transversus’ type larvae are adapted for long distance dispersal, and with only 2 arms for feeding and swimming, there may be an imperative to maintain arm length irrespective of food conditions. Phenotypic plasticity in echinopluteal arm growth is not universal and may be influenced by phylogeny, latitude and the hydromechanics of larval form.

KEY WORDS: Phenotypic plasticity · Echinopluteus transversus · Echinometridae · Diadematidae

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Cite this article as: Soars NA, Prowse TAA, Byrne M (2009) Overview of phenotypic plasticity in echinoid larvae, 'Echinopluteus transversus' type vs. typical echinoplutei. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 383:113-125.

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