How Do Changes in Parental Investment Influence Development in Echinoid Echinoderms?

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Understanding the relationship between egg size, development time, and juvenile size is critical to explaining patterns of life-history evolution in marine invertebrates. Currently there is conflicting information about the effects of changes in egg size on the life histories of echinoid echinoderms. We sought to resolve this conflict by manipulating egg size and food level during the development of two planktotrophic echinoid echinoderms: the green sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis and the sand dollar, Echinarachnius parma. Based on comparative datasets, we predicted that decreasing food availability and egg size would increase development time and reduce juvenile size. To test our prediction, blastomere separations were performed in both species at the two-cell stage to reduce egg volume by 50%, producing whole- and half-size larvae that were reared to metamorphosis under high or low food levels. Upon settlement, age at metamorphosis, juvenile size, spine number, and spine length were measured. As predicted, reducing egg size and food availability significantly increased age at metamorphosis and reduced juvenile quality. Along with previous egg size manipulations in other echinoids, this study suggests that the relationship between egg size, development time, and juvenile size is strongly dependent upon the initial size of the egg.