Larval influx of Diadema antillarum to the Florida Keys linked to passage of a Tortugas Eddy
Lack of recovery of the sea urchin Diadema antillarum in the Caribbean region following a widespread epizootic in 1983–1984 has garnered great interest due to the role of this species as a grazer of macroalgae that exclude reef-building corals. In the Florida Keys, USA, previous research suggests that reestablishment of D. antillarum is limited by low fertilization success and a lack of larval supply. However, the physical mechanisms determining larval supply in the Florida Keys remain poorly resolved. Here, we use coupled biological and physical oceanographic datasets of D. antillarum larval supply to settlement collectors, sea surface temperatures and heights, and the Okubo Weiss parameter to examine a link between influx of larvae to the middle Florida Keys and Tortugas Eddy activity in the Straits of Florida. The greatest magnitude of settlement over 3 months of measurements occurred from late May to late June 2015, coinciding with the passage and dissociation of a Tortugas Eddy. Settlement occurred on collectors only at offshore bank-barrier reef sites, consistent with a temperature signal of a passing eddy at these sites. No D. antillarum were observed by divers at sites 1 yr following settlement on the collectors. The results indicate that despite the lack of population recovery, D. antillarum larval influx can occur during intermittent oceanographic events.
KeywordsSea urchin Coral reef Recruitment Settlement Larva Mesoscale eddy
We thank the staff at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and Keys Marine Laboratory for assisting with data collection. Data were collected under permits FKNMS-2015-049-A1 and SAL-15-1675-SRP. L. Brindisi and E. Chen assisted with data analysis. A. McDougall provided advice on the statistical analysis. Two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. CJF was supported by an Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS) Postdoctoral Fellowship from Rutgers University.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
- Criales MM, Lee TN (1995) Larval distribution and transport of penaeoid shrimps during the presence of the Tortugas Gyre in May–June 1991. Fish Bull 93:471–482Google Scholar
- Eckert GL (1998) Larval development, growth and morphology of the sea urchin Diadema antillarum. Bull Mar Sci 63:443–451Google Scholar
- Kuffner IB, Paul VJ, Ritson-Williams R, Hickey TD, Walters LJ (2009) Reef communities in the Dry Tortugas (Florida, USA): baseline surveys for the new no-take area. In: Proceedings of the 11th international coral reef symposiumGoogle Scholar
- Lane PVZ, Smith SL, Graber HC, Hitchcock GL (2003) Mesoscale circulation and the surface distribution of copepods near the South Florida Keys. Bull Mar Sci 72:1–18Google Scholar
- Lee TN, Clarke ME, Williams E, Szmant AF, Berger T (1994) Evolution of the Tortugas Gyre and its influence on recruitment in the Florida Keys. Bull Mar Sci 54:621–646Google Scholar
- Levitan DR (1988) Asynchronous spawning and aggregative behavior in the sea urchin Diadema antillarum (Philippi). In: Burke RD et al (eds) Echinoderm biology. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 181–186Google Scholar
- Lewis JB (1966) Growth and breeding in the tropical echinoid Diadema antillarum Philippi. Bull Mar Sci 16:151–158Google Scholar
- Limouzy-Paris CB, Graber HC, Jones DL, Ropke AW, Richards WJ (1997) Translocation of larval coral reef fishes via sub-mesoscale spin-off eddies from the Florida Current. Bull Mar Sci 60:966–983Google Scholar
- Miller MW, Szmant AM (2006) Lessons learned from experimental key-species restoration. In: Precht WF (ed) Coral reef restoration handbook. Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, p 219Google Scholar
- Randall JE, Schroeder RE, Stark WA (1964) Notes on the biology of the echinoid Diadema antillarum. Caribb J Sci 4:421–433Google Scholar
- Rogers A, Lorenzen K (2008) Recovery of Diadema antillarum and the potential for active rebuilding measures: modeling population dynamics. In: Proceedings of the 11th international coral reef symposium, pp 956–960Google Scholar