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Fertilization Success in Marine Invertebrates: The Influence of Gamete Age

Mark Elliott Williams and Matthew Graeme Bentley
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 202, No. 1 (Feb., 2002), pp. 34-42
DOI: 10.2307/1543220
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1543220
Page Count: 9
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Fertilization Success in Marine Invertebrates: The Influence of Gamete Age
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Abstract

Gamete age has been postulated to be unimportant to the fertilization ecology of marine invertebrates. However, recent research suggests that, for some species at least, it may have a direct impact upon fertilization success. We present comparative data on the influence of gamete age on fertilization and development success in several marine invertebrates: the polychaetes Arenicola marina and Nereis virens and the asteroid echinoderm Asterias rubens. Oocytes are much longer lived in the polychaetes than in the echinoderm, with A. marina oocytes still capable of fertilizing and developing normally 96 h post-spawning. Developmental abnormalities and failure to reach blastula tend to occur well before the fertilizable life of the oocytes has expired. Sperm are similarly longer lived in the polychaetes; however, fertilizing capacity is markedly reduced following incubation in conspecific egg-conditioned seawater. These results are discussed in terms of the fertilization strategies of the three species. We further suggest that, for A. marina at least, longer-lived sperm and eggs are central to the fertilization strategy of this species.

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