, Volume 159, Issue 5, pp 1071-1077
Date: 31 Jan 2012

Selfing in Parvulastra exigua : an asterinid sea star with benthic development

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Abstract

Parvulastra exigua, a species that lacks a dispersive larva, is paradoxically one of the most widely distributed and abundant sea stars in Australia. The potential that self-fertilization and successful development of self-generated progeny might contribute to population maintenance in this species was investigated through induction of spawning in isolated individuals collected from five populations near Sydney, New South Wales (34°S, 151°E), during the spawning period (August–October 2010, 2011). Evidence of selfing differed significantly among the five populations but the level of selfing within individual egg masses did not. Overall, there was a mean of 8.9% fertilization in egg masses with embryos. Some clutches developed to the juvenile stage while others arrested development before hatching. The presence of miniscule testis tissue in gonads that appeared to be ovaries indicated that hermaphroditism may be more common in some populations than indicated by anatomy. Mixed mating (selfing + outcrossing), pseudocopulation during egg laying and developmental success of self-fertilized embryos may contribute to the ecological success of P. exigua. These might influence population genetic structure and would facilitate establishment of founder populations by a small number of migrants.