Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 179–191 | Cite as

Food availability and physiological state of sea urchin larvae (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)

Research Article


Food availability is highly variable in the ocean. Many species of marine invertebrates have a larval form that depends upon exogenous nutrients for growth, yet there are few biochemical and physiological indices for determining changes in the nutritional status of larvae. In this study, the effects of food availability on biochemical compositions and metabolic processes of larvae of the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, were determined. Larvae were cultured under different food concentrations (fed-to-excess and unfed) and a suite of biological processes assayed, ranging from measurements at the level of the whole organism to that of specific molecules. These data were normalized to DNA content (an index of cell number) to allow comparisons of physiological rates in larvae of different sizes. Changes in the following were measured during larval growth: free amino acid pool, protein, lipid classes (cholesterol, free fatty acids, hydrocarbons, phospholipids, triacylglycerol), enzyme activities (Na+, K+-ATPase and citrate synthase), and respiration rates. In growing larvae, the two key components that showed differential cell-specific content relative to unfed larvae were glycine in the free amino acid pool and phospholipids. Additionally, several lipid classes were detectable only in fed larvae (cholesterols, free fatty acids, and hydrocarbons). While triacylglycerols were present in eggs and utilized during pre-feeding development, they were not re-accumulated at detectable levels in feeding larvae. Respiration rates, protein content, and enzyme activities were all similar on a cell-specific basis, showing that these variables did not provide useful indices of differences in physiological state between fed and unfed larvae. In contrast, measurements of the cell-specific content of glycine and certain lipid classes did provide useful indices of physiological state of larvae. Application of these indices could potentially allow for determinations of nutritional state of larvae in the ocean.


Lipid Class Total Lipid Content Respiration Chamber Free Amino Acid Pool Unfed Larva 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful to Drs. Simon Tavaré and Claudia Rangel Escareño of the University of Southern California for their advice on error propagation and statistical analysis. All experiments included in this study comply with current US laws regarding biological research on marine invertebrates. This work was supported by National Science Foundation Grant Number 0130398.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Meyer
    • 1
  • A. J. Green
    • 1
  • M. Moore
    • 1
  • D. T. Manahan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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