Brooding of the sub-Antarctic heart urchin, Abatus cavernosus (Spatangoida: Schizasteridae), in southern Patagonia
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- Gil, D.G., Zaixso, H.E. & Tolosano, J.A. Mar Biol (2009) 156: 1647. doi:10.1007/s00227-009-1200-7
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The reproductive cycle of the sub-Antarctic spatangoid sea urchin, Abatus cavernosus, was examined during a 2-year period in southern Patagonia, Argentina. The population studied is the northernmost known coastal population in the austral oceans, and is influenced by a greater annual range of seawater temperature than other Abatus species. The sex ratio of the overall A. cavernosus population did not differ significantly from 1:1, but was not homogeneous across size classes. A clearly defined annual reproductive cycle was found. Spawning occurred from May to July and was synchronous between sexes. Females were observed to be brooding within a 9-month period, from May to February. Juveniles were released during the austral summer, from January to February. The length at which 50% of the females were brooding occurred at a test length of 25.9 mm. A. cavernosus had a large egg size (mean diameter = 1.4 mm) and low fecundity (maximum = 57 eggs per female) compared to closely related species. The number of eggs within each brood pouch was highest in larger anterior brood pouch, which is close to two gonopores, as opposed to the other anterior and two smaller posterior pouches. Significant interannual variation was observed in gonad cycles, fecundity, and embryo development such as: brood size decreased during 2001; adjusted gonad dry weight and fecundity were higher during 2003. Hypotheses concerning the gonadal and brooding cycles and fecundity of sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Schizasteridae are discussed.