HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Nicole D. Fogarty

Second Advisor

Jose Lopez

Third Advisor

Donald McCorquodale


Disturbances, such as mass pollution events, threaten the health of vulnerable ecosystems. Recent media attention has focused on the devastating mass oil spills, but daily petroleum input from recreational and commercial ship bilge release has been overlooked. The focus of this study was the effect of petroleum products found in bilge water on fertilization success and larval viability of two sea urchin species, Lytechinus variegatus and Eucidaris tribuloides. Unlike other pollutant studies that have focused on sperm characteristics and concentrations, I chose to examine how egg integrity was compromised by petroleum products. Scanning electron microscopy revealed eggs were degraded when exposed to low levels of these pollutants. Of the three, oil was the most detrimental to Lytechinus variegatus fertilization, while gas was highly detrimental to Eucidaris tribuloides. Dosing the eggs for only two hours before introducing sperm demonstrated significant reduction in fertilization and larval survivorship. These data suggest that even relatively low and brief exposure to petroleum pollutants can have devastating effects on sea urchin reproductive success. New regulations may need to be considered when determining the safe petroleum concentration in bilge discharge.

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