Moderately elevated temperatures increase macroalgal food consumption in two sea urchin species from coastal waters of Madeira

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Abstract

Rising sea surface temperatures affect the feeding behaviour and reproductive success of many coastal benthic invertebrates. This experimental study investigated the effects of ocean warming on macroalgal food consumption rates in the sea urchins Arbacia lixula and Paracentrotus lividus from Madeira Island to assess how the feeding pressure they exert may change under warmer ocean conditions. Additionally, in A. lixula, the relationship between temperature and the gonad index was examined to estimate potential future reproductive output. Over the course of 25 days, 180 individuals of each species were exposed to temperatures between 22 °C and 31 °C. After 20 days, consumption rates were assessed in 48-h feeding trials. Gonad indices of A. lixula were determined on the last day of the experiment. In the thermal range investigated, both traits were found to be unimodal functions of temperature. In addition to temperature, consumption rates in both species and the gonad indices in A. lixula were influenced by body size, while feeding in A. lixula also varied between sexes. Maximum food consumption rates (A. lixula and P. lividus) as well as maximum gonad indices (only A. lixula) were observed between 25 °C and 26 °C. These values are at the upper end of the temperature range that currently prevails around Madeira, and may become average summer temperatures by the year 2100. Consequently, both sea urchin species may thrive during future warm summers and may enhance their top-down control on local macroalgal populations.

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Roma, J., Schertenleib, K., Ramalhosa, P., Gestoso, I., Canning-Clode, J., & Lenz, M. (2021). Moderately elevated temperatures increase macroalgal food consumption in two sea urchin species from coastal waters of Madeira. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 542543. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2021.151603

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