Original Paper

Polar Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 7, pp 1027-1034

First online:

Combined effects of two ocean change stressors, warming and acidification, on fertilization and early development of the Antarctic echinoid Sterechinus neumayeri

  • J. A. EricsonAffiliated withSchool of Medical Sciences, University of SydneyUniversity of Otago Email author 
  • , M. A. HoAffiliated withSchool of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney
  • , A. MiskellyAffiliated withSchool of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney
  • , C. K. KingAffiliated withAustralian Antarctic Division
  • , P. VirtueAffiliated withInstitute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania
  • , B. TilbrookAffiliated withCentre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, a partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of MeteorologyAntarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre
  • , M. ByrneAffiliated withSchool of Medical Sciences, University of SydneySchool of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney

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The effects of concurrent ocean warming and acidification on Antarctic marine benthos warrant investigation as little is known about potential synergies between these climate change stressors. We examined the interactive effects of warming and acidification on fertilization and embryonic development of the ecologically important sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri reared from fertilization in elevated temperature (+1.5°C and 3°C) and decreased pH (−0.3 and −0.5 pH units) treatments. Fertilization using gametes from multiple males and females, to represent populations of spawners, was resilient to acidification at ambient temperature (0°C). At elevated temperatures, there was a negative interactive effect of temperature and pH on percentage of fertilization (11% reduction at 3°C). For cleavage stage embryos, there was a significant, but small reduction (6%) in the percentage of normal embryos at pH 7.5. For blastulae, a 10–11% decrease in normal development occurred in the +3°C treatments across all pH levels. Our results highlight the importance of considering the impacts of both temperature and pH in assessing the life history response of S. neumayeri in a changing polar ocean. While fertilization and development to the blastula stage were robust to levels of temperature and pH change predicted over coming decades, deleterious interactive effects were evident between these stressors at levels projected to occur by 2100 and beyond.


Ocean acidification Ocean warming Antarctica Echinoderm Early life history