The skeleton of postmetamorphic echinoderms in a changing world

Posted on OA: 01 Aug 2014

 Available evidence on the impact of acidification and its interaction with warming on the skeleton of postmetamorphic (juvenile and adult) echinoderms is reviewed. Data are available on sea urchins, starfish, and brittle stars in 33 studies. Skeleton growth of juveniles of all sea urchin species studied so far is affected from pH 7.8 to 7.6 in seawater, values that are expected to be reached during the 21st century. Growth in adult sea urchins (six species studied) is apparently only marginally affected at seawater pH relevant to this century. The interacting effect of temperature differed according to studies. Juvenile starfish as well as adults seem to be either not impacted or even boosted by acidification. Brittle stars show moderate effects at pH below or equal to 7.4. Dissolution of the body wall skeleton is unlikely to be a major threat to sea urchins. Spines, however, due to their exposed position, are more prone to this threat, but their regeneration abilities can probably ensure their maintenance, although this could have an energetic cost and induce changes in resource allocation. No information is available on skeleton dissolution in starfish, and the situation in brittle stars needs further assessment. Very preliminary evidence indicates that mechanical properties in sea urchins could be affected. So, although the impact of ocean acidification on the skeleton of echinoderms has been considered as a major threat from the first studies, we need a better understanding of the induced changes, in particular the functional consequences of growth modifications and dissolution related to mechanical properties. It is suggested to focus studies on these aspects.


Dubois P., 2014. The skeleton of postmetamorphic echinoderms in a changing world.The Biological Bulletin 226 (3): 223-236. Article.