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, 93 (11), 5286-90

Successful External Fertilization in Turbulent Environments


Successful External Fertilization in Turbulent Environments

E A Serrao et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.


Mathematical and experimental simulations predict that external fertilization is unsuccessful in habitats characterized by high water motion. A key assumption of such predictions is that gametes are released in hydrodynamic regimes that quickly dilute gametes. We used fucoid seaweeds to examine whether marine organisms in intertidal and subtidal habitats might achieve high levels of fertilization by restricting their release of gametes to calm intervals. Fucus vesiculosus L. (Baltic Sea) released high numbers of gametes only when maximal water velocities were below ca. 0.2 m/s immediately prior to natural periods of release, which occur in early evening in association with lunar cues. Natural fertilization success measured at two sites was always close to 100%. Laboratory experiments confirmed that (i) high water motion inhibits gamete release by F. vesiculosus and by the intertidal fucoids Fucus distichus L. (Maine) and Pelvetia fastigiata (J. Ag.) DeToni (California), and (ii) showed that photosynthesis is required for high gamete release. These data suggest that chemical changes in the boundary layer surrounding adults during photosynthesis and/or mechanosensitive channels may modulate gamete release in response to changing hydrodynamic conditions. Therefore, sensitivity to environmental factors can lead to successful external fertilization, even for species living in turbulent habitats.

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