Behavioural responses to hydrostatic pressure in selected echinoderms suggest hyperbaric constraint of bathymetric range

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Although hydrostatic pressure is one of the most prominent abiotic drivers of faunal bathymetric ranges, it is one of the least understood. To better understand hyperbaric constraints on depth distributions, we explored responses to high pressure of adult echinoderms from eastern Canada. The sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, the sea star Leptasterias polaris and the sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa were exposed to various pressures within and beyond their known bathymetric distribution (i.e. surface pressure; pressure at the midpoint in bathymetric distribution; pressure at twice the maximum depth in the species bathymetric distribution) for different durations (24 h, 72 h, 9 days). Survival was compromised by exposure to the highest pressure levels, with the sea urchin exhibiting the highest mortality. After 72-h exposure, mortality was observed for sea urchin and sea cucumber individuals while all sea star individuals survived. Following 9-day exposure of sea star individuals to high pressure, 100% mortality occurred. Exposure to pressures typical of natural distributions had little effect on the selected health and motor metrics. Pressures atypical of natural ranges negatively affected the motor functions of all species, irrespective of exposure duration. During and after 24-h exposure, feeding was reduced in sea urchin and sea cucumber individuals, but was unchanged in sea star individuals. Overall, there were no clear signs of acclimation to high pressure following sustained periods of exposure in any species. These results highlight constraints applied by hydrostatic pressure beyond current bathymetric ranges on life-sustaining behaviours in echinoderms. The potential of long-lived echinoderms to survive downward migration to greater depths is species-specific, suggesting there may be winners and losers in the face of near-future climate-driven migration patterns.




Ammendolia, J., Hamel, J. F., & Mercier, A. (2018). Behavioural responses to hydrostatic pressure in selected echinoderms suggest hyperbaric constraint of bathymetric range. Marine Biology, 165(9).

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