, Volume 161, Issue 2, pp 395-409
Date: 27 Oct 2013

Thermal tolerance of early development in tropical and temperate sea urchins: inferences for the tropicalization of eastern Australia

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The thermal envelope of development to the larval stage of two echinoids from eastern Australia was characterized to determine whether they fill their potential latitudinal ranges as indicated by tolerance limits. The tropical sand dollar, Arachnoides placenta, a species that is not known to have shifted its range, was investigated in Townsville, northern Australia (19°20′S, 146°77′E), during its autumn spawning season (May 2012). The subtropical/temperate sea urchin, Centrostephanus rodgersii, a species that has undergone poleward range expansion, was investigated in Sydney, southern Australia (33°58′S, 151°14′E), during its winter spawning season (August 2012). The thermal tolerance of development was determined in embryos and larvae reared at twelve temperatures. For A. placenta, the ambient water temperature near Townsville and experimental control were 24 °C and treatments ranged from 14 to 37 °C. For C. rodgersii, ambient Sydney water temperature and experimental control were 17 °C, and the treatment range was 9–31 °C. A. placenta had a broader developmental thermal envelope (14 °C range 17–31 °C) than C. rodgersii (9 °C range 13–22 °C). Both species developed successfully at temperatures well below ambient, suggesting that cooler water is not a barrier to poleward migration for either species. Both species presently live near the upper thermal limits for larval development, and future ocean warming could lead to contractions of their northern range limits. This study provides insights into the factors influencing the realized and potential distribution of planktonic life stages and changes to adult distribution in response to global change.

Communicated by U. Sommer.