Extension of the breeding season and its effects on fertilization and development in two species of lugworm (Arenicola marina and Arernicola defodiens)

Gordon Watson, L. Hannah, S. Gaudron, K. Betteley, M. Bentley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the autumn/winter breeding polychaetes, Arenicola marina and A. defodiens, spawning can be advanced or delayed by a number of months through temperature manipulation of the adults. However, this manipulation may have significant consequences for fertilization rates and embryo developmental success and so in vitro fertilizations were performed to assess the impact of manipulation. Firstly, we used oocytes and sperm obtained from advanced or delayed individuals. For both species, using gametes from 4 weeks advanced individuals did not result in a significant reduction in development, however, gametes from individuals advanced (A. marina only) or delayed by 8 weeks resulted in significantly fewer embryos developing normally. Reciprocal crosses of temperature-manipulated A. marina gametes (from 4 weeks advanced and 4 weeks delayed individuals) with those at the natural spawning time confirmed that the reduction in developmental success in both was attributable to the oocytes. After 5 It post-fertilization, the majority of oocytes from advanced individuals had fertilized, but by 24 It most were abnormal. For fertilizations with gametes from delayed individuals, nearly 100% of the embryos were developing normally after 24 h, but after 144 It significantly more were abnormal in crosses involving oocytes from delayed females, Although both species have reproductive plasticity to extend their breeding season, the significant reduction in the numbers of competent larvae produced as the spawning is delayed or advanced further may be a significant bottleneck in aquaculture and it may also have considerable implications for the long-term reproductive success of a population in response to environmental change. Sympatric populations of the species exist in many locations and the inherent variability in the breeding seasons could allow spawning times to overlap. Artificially delaying A. marina individuals enabled fertilizations to be performed with A. defodiens at the natural spawning time in the laboratory. Both conspecific fertilizations produced 100% trochophore larvae after 120 h, but A. defodiens oocytes failed to fertilize after incubation with A. marina sperm, in comparison to the A. marina oocytes incubated with A. defodiens sperm where 40% developed to the trochophore stage. This asymmetric gamete incompatibility may be one of a suite of mechanisms to minimise hybridisation. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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