, Volume 134, Issue 1, pp 155-166

Effects of food type and ration on reproductive maturation and growth of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis

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We investigated the effects of food quality and quantity on reproductive maturation and growth of juveniles of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (Müller) in a 22 month laboratory experiment in which we fed sea urchins four diets: (1) kelp (Laminaria spp.) for 6 d wk−1 and mussel (Mytilus spp.) flesh for 1 d wk−1 (KM); (2) kelp for 7 d wk−1 (high ration, KH); (3) kelp for 1 d wk−1 (low ration, KL) and (4) no food other than encrusting coralline algae (NF). At their first and second opportunity for reproduction, all sea urchins in the KM and KH treatments, and most in the KL treatment were reproductively mature, whereas all sea urchins in the NF treatment remained immature. Gonad index differed significantly among all fed treatments at first and second reproduction, and was highest in the KM and lowest in the KL treatment. Gonad index was similar in both sexes at first reproduction, but it was higher in females than in males at second reproduction. Diet had little or no effect on the relative abundance of spermatocytes, spermatozoa, or nutritive phagocytes in testes at first and second reproduction. In ovaries, nutritive phagocytes were significantly more abundant in females in the KM and KH treatments than in the KL treatment at first reproduction, and significantly more abundant in unfed (NF) than fed (KM, KH, KL) females at second reproduction. Mean oocyte size was similar in all fed females at first reproduction, but significantly larger in fed than unfed females at second reproduction. Mean ovum size was similar in all fed females in both reproductive periods. Increase in test diameter was greatest in the KM treatment and smallest in the KL treatment; sea urchins in the NF treatment decreased slightly in size. Survival was 95 to 100% in all fed sea urchins but significantly lower in unfed ones. The feeding rate on kelp was significantly greater in the KL than the KM and KH treatments. In the KM treatment, the feeding rate on kelp increased significantly over a 6 d period after mussel flesh was provided. Our results demonstrate that a diet of high food quality and quantity accelerates reproductive maturation and growth rate, and enhances gonad production and survival in juvenile and young adult S. droebachiensis. These findings contribute to our understanding of the reproductive ecology of S. droebachiensis in habitats with differing food supplies (e.g., kelp beds and barrens). Our results also can be used to improve aquacultural practices for sea urchins.

Received: 3 June 1998 / Accepted: 2 February 1999