Behavioural and physiological impacts of low salinity on the sea urchin Echinus esculentus

Reduced seawater salinity as a result of freshwater input can exert a major influence on the ecophysiology of benthic marine invertebrates, such as echinoderms. While numerous experimental studies have explored the physiological and behavioural effects of short-term, acute exposure to low salinity in echinoids, surprisingly few have investigated the consequences of chronic exposure, or compared the two. In this study, the European sea urchin, Echinus esculentus was exposed to low salinity over the short-term (11, 16, 21, 26, and 31‰ for 24 hours) and longer-term (21, 26, and 31‰ for 25 days). Over the short-term, oxygen consumption, activity coefficient and coelomic fluid osmolality were directly correlated with reduced salinity, with 100% survival at ≥21‰ and 0% at ≤16‰. Over the longer-term at 21‰ (25 days), oxygen consumption was significantly higher, feeding was significantly reduced, and activity coefficient values were significantly lower than at control salinity (31‰). At 26‰, all metrics were comparable to the control by the end of the experiment, suggesting acclimation. Furthermore, beneficial functional resistance (righting ability and metabolic capacity) to acute low salinity was observed at 26‰. Osmolality values were slightly hyperosmotic to the external seawater at all acclimation salinities, while coelomocyte composition and concentration were unaffected by chronic low salinity. Overall, E. esculentus demonstrate phenotypic plasticity that enables acclimation to reduced salinity around 26‰; however, 21‰ represents a lower acclimation threshold, likely limiting its distribution in coastal areas prone to high freshwater input.


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Authors: Barrett, Nicholas J. ORCIDORCID record for Nicholas J. Barrett, Harper, Elizabeth M., Last, Kim S., Reinardy, Helena C., Peck, Lloyd S. ORCIDORCID record for Lloyd S. Peck

On this site: Lloyd Peck, Nicholas Barrett
16 January, 2024
Journal of Experimental Biology / 227
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