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Diversity 2017, 9(1), 10; doi:10.3390/d9010010

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

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 050010, Colombia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Sven Uthicke and Michael Wink
Received: 30 November 2016 / Revised: 25 January 2017 / Accepted: 10 February 2017 / Published: 15 February 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biology, Ecology and Management of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish)
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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: 7.4–8.2) 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 embryonic 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 derived from eggs also enhanced sperm activity, particularly in environmental conditions where sperm motility was 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. View Full-Text
Keywords: cleavage; gastrulation; sperm activity; temperature; salinity; pH; Acanthaster outbreaks cleavage; gastrulation; sperm activity; temperature; salinity; pH; Acanthaster outbreaks
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Caballes, C.F.; Pratchett, M.S.; Raymundo, M.L.; Rivera-Posada, J.A. Environmental Tipping Points for Sperm Motility, Fertilization, and Embryonic Development in the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish. Diversity 2017, 9, 10.

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