Ocean acidification induces budding in larval sea urchins
Ocean acidification (OA), the reduction of ocean pH due to hydration of atmospheric CO2, is known to affect growth and survival of marine invertebrate larvae. Survival and transport of vulnerable planktonic larval stages play important roles in determining population dynamics and community structures in coastal ecosystems. Here, we show that larvae of the purple urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, underwent high-frequency budding (release of blastula-like particles) when exposed to elevated pCO2 level (>700 μatm). Budding was observed in >50 % of the population and was synchronized over short periods of time (~24 h), suggesting this phenomenon may be previously overlooked. Although budding can be a mechanism through which larval echinoids asexually reproduce, here, the released buds did not develop into viable clones. OA-induced budding and the associated reduction in larval size suggest new hypotheses regarding physiological and ecological tradeoffs between short-term benefits (e.g. metabolic savings and predation escape) and long-term costs (e.g. tissue loss and delayed development) in the face of climate change.