Abiotic conditions in cephalopod (Sepia officinalis) eggs: embryonic development at low pH and high pCO2
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- Gutowska, M.A. & Melzner, F. Mar Biol (2009) 156: 515. doi:10.1007/s00227-008-1096-7
Low pO2 values have been measured in the perivitelline fluids (PVF) of marine animal eggs on several occasions, especially towards the end of development, when embryonic oxygen consumption is at its peak and the egg case acts as a massive barrier to diffusion. Several authors have therefore suggested that oxygen availability is the key factor leading to hatching. However, there have been no measurements of PVF pCO2 so far. This is surprising, as elevated pCO2 could also constitute a major abiotic stressor for the developing embryo. As a first attempt to fill this gap in knowledge, we measured pO2, pCO2 and pH in the PVF of late cephalopod (Sepia officinalis) eggs. We found linear relationships between embryo wet mass and pO2, pCO2 and pH. pO2 declined from >12 kPa to less than 5 kPa, while pCO2 increased from 0.13 to 0.41 kPa. In the absence of active accumulation of bicarbonate in the PVF, pH decreased from 7.7 to 7.2. Our study supports the idea that oxygen becomes limiting in cephalopod eggs towards the end of development; however, pCO2 and pH shift to levels that have caused significant physiological disturbances in other marine ectothermic animals. Future research needs to address the physiological adaptations that enable the embryo to cope with the adverse abiotic conditions in their egg environment.
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