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Biol Bull. 2006 Dec;211(3):204-7.

Maternal provisioning in Ophionereis fasciata and O. schayeri: brittle stars with contrasting modes of development.

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Department of Anatomy and Histology, F13, University of Sydney, Australia.


Evolutionary change from planktotrophic to lecithotrophic development in echinoderms is closely tied to an increase in maternal provisioning. We provide the first data on the major energetic constituents in the eggs of two ophiuroids, the planktotroph Ophionereis fasciata (egg diameter 103 microm) and the lecithotroph O. schayeri (egg diameter 248 microm), to document changes in maternal investment associated with the switch to lecithotrophy in O. schayeri. Lipid classes in the eggs of the two species did not differ except for the presence of small amounts of wax esters in the eggs of O. schayeri. Production of a large egg in O. schayeri is mostly due to enhanced deposition of one energy-storage lipid, triglyceride. The eggs of O. schayeri are not simply scaled-up versions of the ancestral-type eggs of O. fasciata. The relationship between lipid and protein content and egg volume conformed to the relationship previously established for echinoderm eggs. Surprisingly, total lipid and protein data for the eggs of O. schayeri grouped with data for the eggs of planktotrophic echinoderms. The eggs of O. schayeri are small compared with those of other echinoderms with lecithotrophic development, and their energetic contents may approach the minimum provisions necessary to permit development without feeding.

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