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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Effects of oil pollution on the development of sex cells in sea urchins

  • M. A. Vashchenko1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:BF02414755


The sea urchinStrongylocentrotus nudus is highly sensitive to oil pollution. Experiments were performed in winter, spring and summer over periods of 15 to 45 days. Experimental urchins were kept in water with hydrocarbon concentrations of 10 to 30 mg l−1, and control urchins in pure sea water. Thermal stimulation by Evdokimov's method was applied to obtain mature sexual products during winter and spring tests. Summer investigations were conducted at temperatures of 17 to 18 °C. The gonads were studied histologically and morphometrically, and the sexual cells obtained were analyzed at the embryological level. No histological and morphometrical differences were recorded between sexual cells of controls and experimentals. However, marked hydrocarbon effects were observed in the embryonic development of artificially fertilized cells from experimental urchins. Control embryos developed normally. Embryogenesis of artificially fertilized gametes from control females and experimental males, and vice versa, was found to be distinctly abnormal. Many abnormalities were identified at the first cleavage stage, as well as in blastula, gastrula and pluteus. Fertilization of experimental eggs with experimental sperm resulted in serious disturbances of embryos, followed by the development of non-viable larvae. On the whole, embryogenesis of sexual cells from experimental urchins was characterized by prominent delay, asynchronism and presence of abnormal non-viable larvae. Consequently, long-term effects of sublethal hydrocarbon concentrations resulted in the formation of defective sex cells and high larval mortality.