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Biol Bull. 1995 Feb-Mar;188(1):46-56.

The effects of hydrodynamic shear stress on fertilization and early development of the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, California 93950.


Life in the highly turbulent surf zone poses a severe challenge to reproduction in free-spawning animals. Not only can breaking waves quickly dilute the gametes shed by spawning organisms, but turbulence-induced shear stresses may limit fertilization and interfere with normal development. A Couette cell was used to re-create some of the effects of turbulent water motion to study effects of environmentally relevant shear stresses on fertilization in the purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus). Although low shear stresses improved fertilization success (presumably by increasing mixing), exposure to high shear stresses (of the magnitude found in the surf zone) substantially decreased fertilization success, probably by interfering with contact between egg and sperm. Furthermore, eggs fertilized at high shear stresses often showed abnormal development and low survival of eggs through the blastula stage.

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