Effects of Egg Size Reduction and Larval Feeding on Juvenile Quality for a Species with Facultative-Feeding Development

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In free-spawning marine invertebrates, larval development typically proceeds by one of two modes: planktotrophy (obligate larval feeding) from small eggs or lecithotrophy (obligate non-feeding) from relatively large eggs. In a rare third developmental mode, facultative planktotrophy, larvae can feed, but do not require particulate food to complete metamorphosis. Facultative planktotrophy is thought to be an intermediate condition that results from an evolutionary increase in energy content in the small eggs of a planktotrophic ancestor. We tested whether an experimental reduction in egg size is sufficient to restore obligate planktotrophy from facultative planktotrophy and whether the two sources of larval nutrition (feeding and energy in the egg) differentially influence larval survival and juvenile quality. We predicted, based on its large egg size, that a reduction in egg size in the echinoid echinoderm Clypeaster rosaceus would affect juvenile size but not time to metamorphosis. We reduced the effective size of whole (W) zygotes by separating blastomeres at the two- or four-cell stages to create half- (H) or quarter-size (Q) “zygotes” and reared larvae to metamorphosis, both with and without particulate food. Larvae metamorphosed at approximately the same time regardless of food or egg size treatment. In contrast, juveniles that developed from W zygotes were significantly larger, had higher organic content and had longer and more numerous spines than juveniles from H or Q zygotes. Larvae from W, H and Q zygotes were able to reach metamorphosis without feeding, suggesting that the evolution of facultative planktotrophy in C. rosaceus was accompanied by more than a simple increase in egg size. In addition, our results suggest that resources lost by halving egg size have a larger effect on larval survival and juvenile quality than those lost by withholding particulate food.