Polyfluorochrome Marking Slows Growth Only During the Marking Month in the Green Sea Urchin Strongylocentrotus Droebachiensis

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Used singly, the fluorochrome tags tetracycline and calcein have yielded important insights into sea urchin biology, especially regarding growth. We present a new method of tagging using sequential fluorochrome markers, as well as a more precise method of quantifying growth. Such polyfluorochromes enable repeated markings that allow measurement of multiple growth points and unique identification of individuals or groups. We marked sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, with four fluorochromes: alizarin complexone, calcein, calcein blue, and tetracycline. All fluorochromes marked both by injection and immersion. We examined the clarity of the mark produced with low, metabolically scaled doses, and higher doses similar to those that have been previously used. We tested the effect of fluorochromes on survival, growth, jaw size, and gonad size by marking a size range (3.9–44.3 mm in diameter) of urchins with either one or all four fluorochromes. We quantified growth using a nominal diameter, that is a fitted constant, times the cube root of weight, which increased the precision of measurements by a factor of six relative to measured diameter. Growth rate was a decreasing function of diameter except for a growth lag in the smallest urchins. Growth rate data for all sizes were fitted using: gamma distributions; Tanaka functions; and, for larger sizes, straight lines (von Bertalanffy model). All treatments produced clear marks, with higher doses producing more reliably clear marks. Tetracycline marking did not affect growth; other treatments produced only transient slowing of growth in the marking month. Growth rate, survival, gonad production, and jaw weight did not differ between control and treatments during the following 6 months. Thus, polyfluorochromes produce reliable marks that do not significantly affect growth or gonad production.