Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 455–465 | Cite as

A new quantitative analysis of ovarian development in echinoderms: the maturity stage index

  • Gina M. Doyle
  • Jean-François Hamel
  • Annie MercierEmail author
Original Paper


This study developed an objective quantitative method for detecting small-scale temporal or spatial differences in gametogenesis in echinoderms. The method was applied to conventional monthly samples of the planktotrophic brittle star, Ophiopholis aculeata, collected at a single site in Newfoundland (eastern Canada) at 10–15 m depth. The samples were analysed to determine gonad index, oocyte size and gonadal stage using histology. The maturity stage index (MSI) was developed to integrate a measure of brittle star size (disc diameter), oocyte size and oocyte density. The MSIs ranged from 0 to 800 and had significantly different means among the four gametogenic stages (early growth, growth, mature and spent). The MSI was more sensitive in revealing significant differences between consecutive stages than any of its individual constituents. The MSI was also applied to gametogenic data from the lecithotrophic holothuroid, Mesothuria lactea, again revealing significant differences between successive oogenic stages. This method is expected to be useful in field and experimental studies of gametogenesis in echinoderms (and possibly other taxa), where it is important to detect not just the timing of annual peaks in reproduction but small differences in reproductive status among individuals or populations (e.g. from different habitats or feeding regimes).


Gonad Index Oocyte Diameter Germinal Epithelium Oocyte Size Large Oocyte 
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.



Special thanks to P. Gagnon for logistic support, guidance and valued help in the field, and to S. Caines, W. Coffey, R. Guest, R. Hooper, K. Matheson, R. O’Donnell, P. Sargent, and C. Vickers for assistance with field work and sample collection. Many thanks as well to OSC Laboratory Services, the MI Centre for Aquaculture and Development, J. Foote, N. Laite, C. Short, J. So and Z. Sun for technical and moral support and to S. Baillon for her work on M. lactea. This study was financially supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to A. Mercier. It was conducted in partial fulfilment of the MSc degree of G. Doyle, who wishes to thank examiners for helping to improve earlier versions of this manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments.

Supplementary material

227_2011_1823_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (137 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 136 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gina M. Doyle
    • 1
  • Jean-François Hamel
    • 2
  • Annie Mercier
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC)Memorial UniversitySt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.Society for the Exploration and Valuing of the Environment (SEVE)St. PhilipsCanada

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