Meeting Abstract

69.2  Friday, Jan. 6  Developmental consequences of association with a photosynthetic substrate for encapsulated embryos of an intertidal gastropod FERNANDES, D. A. O.*; PODOLOSKY, R. D.; College of Charleston; College of Charleston daoriaf@hotmail.com

Aggregation of embryos in clutches that lack internal circulation can increase the risk of hypoxia by limiting gas exchange. As a result, limits on oxygen solubility and diffusion in water can constrain the size and embryo concentration of aquatic egg clutches. Hypoxia in egg masses can slow embryo development, increase mortality, and reduce size at hatching. The risk of hypoxia for embryos, however, can be reduced by association with photosynthetic organisms. We examined whether embryo development in egg ribbons of the cephalaspidean mollusk Haminoea vesicula is significantly influenced by oviposition on eelgrass (Zostera marina). Association with a photosynthetic substrate had marked effects on development relative to association with non-photosynthetic substrates, and the direction of these effects was mediated by light conditions. Under intermediate and high light levels, association with eelgrass accelerated embryo development, while under dim light, the presence of the macrophyte increased development rate and reduced hatchling shell size. Benefits of association with eelgrass at higher light levels likely result from oxygen production by eelgrass photosynthesis, while we attribute costs under low light to oxygen depletion by eelgrass respiration. Association with Z. marina also limited microphyte growth in egg ribbons of H. vesicula. In the field, measurements of light attenuation within an eelgrass bed showed that conditions under which benefits accrue to embryos are ecologically relevant and correspond to spatial patterns of oviposition on eelgrass in the field. The choice of a photosynthetic oviposition substrate under appropriate light conditions can improve embryo fitness by accelerating embryo development without compromising hatchling size and by reducing the potential for excessive and harmful fouling by microphytes.