How Does Metabolic Rate Scale with Egg Size? An Experimental Test with Sea Urchin Embryos

Document Type


Publication Date



The consequences of changes in egg size for the development of marine invertebrates have been the subject of much theoretical and experimental work. Models that explore larval developmental modes in the context of maternal investment per offspring are often couched in an energetic framework, but the relationships between egg size and the energetics of larval development are poorly understood. We used blastomere separations to examine how experimental reductions in egg size affected (1) larval metabolic rate and (2) larval resistance to starvation. We found that separating blastomeres at the 2- and 4-cell stage resulted in average reductions of 50% and 75%, respectively, in larval metabolic rate. This suggests that, in an experimental context, mass-specific metabolic rate does not change with egg size. We also found that a 50% reduction in egg volume did not reduce the resistance of larvae to starvation when particulate food was withheld. This suggests that the material supplied to larvae in the egg is used primarily for construction of the larval body, rather than as a buffer against starvation or as a means of reducing reliance on exogenous fuel to sustain maintenance metabolism.