Marine Biology

, 165:96 | Cite as

The effect of warming on mortality, metabolic rate, heat-shock protein response and gonad growth in thermally acclimated sea urchins (Heliocidaris erythrogramma)

  • Januar Harianto
  • Hong Dao Nguyen
  • Sebastian P. Holmes
  • Maria Byrne
Original paper


Environmental temperature affects the physiology and fitness of ectotherms, an important consideration in a warming ocean. We investigated the effects of acclimation to increased temperature in the Australian sea urchin, Heliocidaris erythrogramma. After a gradual introduction to increasing temperature (1 °C 6 day−1), sea urchins were held for ~ 3 months in four treatments at three elevated temperatures (22, 24 and 26 °C) and the median annual temperature, 20 °C. The effect of elevated temperature on survival, metabolic rate, Q10, heat-shock protein (HSP70) expression, gonad index and gonad histology were examined. There was no detectable effect of temperature on metabolic rate for the 22 and 24 °C treatments, although survival decreased by 23% in the 24 °C treatment and there was an increase in mean HSP70 expression. At 26 °C, metabolic rate was lower than at 22 and 24 °C, but was similar to controls, indicating that metabolic depression may have occurred, whereas survival decreased by 31% and HSP70 expression increased threefold. It is clear that there is an active physiological response in urchins held at the highest temperatures. The deleterious effect of living at temperatures projected for the future indicates that the persistence of future populations of H. erythrogramma will depend on acclimation as habitat warming continues.



We would like to thank the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) for access to facilities. We are grateful to SIMS staff for their help in various matters, and in particular, Joshua Aldridge for his assistance in maintaining the flow-through system. We also sincerely thank the three anonymous reviewers, whose comments helped improve this manuscript substantially. This is SIMS contribution number 223.


This research was supported by Grants from the NSW Environmental Trust (MB) and the Professor NGW and Mrs Ann Macintosh Memorial Scholarship (JH).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All sea urchins were sampled and treated in accordance with the ethical standards of The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Conflict of interest

All authors have agreed to the submitted version of the manuscript. We have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3353_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (200 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 200 kb)
227_2018_3353_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (148 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 148 kb)
227_2018_3353_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (560 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 559 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Medical ScienceThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Life and Environmental SciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Science and HealthWestern Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia

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