Reproductive biology and biochemical composition of the brooding echinoid Amphipneustes lorioli on the Antarctic continental shelf
The bathyal West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) shelf experiences intense seasonal variability in primary production, with summer phytoplankton blooms yielding intense pulse of phytodetritus to shelf sediments. Echinoderms form a conspicuous proportion of the deposit-feeding megabenthos on the shelf and of these Amphipneustes lorioli was the most abundant irregular echinoid. To explore the reproductive response of A. lorioli to this seasonal production cycle, A. Lorioli was sampled at one location on the WAP shelf during four separate cruises between March 2000 and March 2001. Reproductive patterns were determined by histological analyses of gonad tissue, and elemental (CHN) analyses were used to estimate the nutritional and energetic status of the body tissues. Histological analysis of the brooding echinoid A. lorioli suggested a quasi-continuous gametogenic pattern in both the ovaries and the testes. Biochemical analysis of the gonads and the gut tissues were consistent with a continuous gametogenic cycle, showing no significant changes in the biochemical composition of the tissues among seasons. Size-frequency distributions of the embryo and juvenile echinoids within the adults’ brood pouches revealed a synchronous recruitment of embryos and juveniles in specific cohorts between different adult specimens. Whilst this occurrence of different cohorts of the developing brood may be an adaptation to limited brood space, there may also be an external factor influencing the synchrony between adult individuals. Nonetheless, a continuous gametogenic cycle and the lack of seasonal variation in the biochemical composition of gonad and gut tissues suggest that this deposit-feeding irregular urchin is exploiting a persistent sediment food bank in WAP shelf sediments throughout much of the year.
Authors: Galley, Elizabeth A., Tyler, Paul A., Clarke, Andrew, Smith, Craig R.