HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Joana Figueiredo

Second Advisor

Nicole Fogarty

Third Advisor

Charles Messing


Climate change is predicted to affect the larval stages of many marine organisms. Ocean warming can reduce larval survival and hasten larval development, whereas ocean acidification can delay larval development. Ocean acidification is especially concerning for marine organisms that develop and grow calcified shells or skeletons in an environment undersaturated with calcium carbonate minerals. This study assessed the effects of ocean warming and acidification on the fertilization and larval development of the green sea urchin, Lytechinus variegatus, a tropical species common in Florida and the Caribbean. After spawning, gametes were fertilized and embryos/larvae were reared at: 1) 28°C and pH 8.1 (control), 2) 28°C and pH 7.8 (ocean acidification scenario), 3) 31°C and pH 8.1 (ocean warming scenario), and 4) 31°C and pH 7.8 (ocean warming and acidification scenario). Exposure to acidified conditions had no effect on fertilization, but delayed larval development, stunted growth and increased asymmetry. Exposure to warm conditions decreased fertilization success at a high sperm to egg ratio (1,847:1), accelerated larval development, but had no significant effect on growth. Under exposure to both stressors (ocean warming and acidification), larval development was accelerated, but larvae were smaller and more asymmetric. These results indicate that climate change will have a serious impact on the larval development and growth of the green sea urchin, L. variegatus, and may negatively affect its persistence.