Female Sea Urchins Produce More Robost Offspring in Times of Duress

Somehow, female sea urchins can sense when the vagrant (group of sea urchins) is in trouble.   They are able to affect the type of sea urchins they produce.  During times of duress for the vagrant, female sea urchins are able to produce more robust offspring to meet the harsher conditions.

From phys.org

Biologists discover that female purple sea urchins prime their progeny to succeed in the face of stress

A new study by UC Santa Barbara marine biologists demonstrates that for females of the species (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), exposure to stressful climate conditions such as low pH levels often makes for hardier, larger offspring. The group’s findings appear in the journal Molecular Ecology.”

…..Inspired by dynamic shifts in pH due to upwelling—the movement of nutrient-rich water toward the ocean surface—the researchers took urchins from the Santa Barbara Channel and brought them into the lab. The animals were held for about four months while the females made ripe eggs—a process called gametogenesis. When they spawned and were fertilized, the investigators tested the embryos.

Two groups of urchins were held at different pH levels—one that was low pH, akin to ocean acidification conditions, and another that mimicked normal non-upwelling pH conditions. The researchers then compared the progeny of the two groups……

Using next-generation sequencing technology, the scientists examined the transcriptome—every gene activated in the embryo—to create a snapshot of how baby urchins responded physiologically.

“The two groups were radically different,” said lead author Juliet Wong, a graduate student in the Hofmann Lab. “Urchin larvae from females exposed to low pH conditions had more genes turned on and were better prepared to handle stress. We were pretty surprised to see that.”

…..”This work shows that a rapid adaptation response is likely possible in many organisms,” Hofmann explained. “We just haven’t looked at these transgenerational or maternal effects in a climate change context before. Because purple sea urchin females can condition their progeny to experience future stress, the urchins have tools at hand to respond to changes like ocean acidification.”

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