Environmental and ontogenetic constraints on developmental stability in the spatangoid sea urchin Echinocardium (Echinoidea)

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Spatangoid irregular sea urchins are detritivorous benthic organisms particularly prone to variations of environment, and their mode of growth and plate morphology make them an appropriate model to assess the effects of environmental variations. Two populations of Echinocardium flavescens were sampled in two sites of the Norwegian coast characterized by contrasted environmental conditions. Different morphological descriptors (plate areas, interlandmarks distances, overall size, and shape of the posterior ambulacra) were used to appraise interindividual variations, and fluctuating asymmetry. The comparisons were carried out using classical fluctuating asymmetry (FA) methods, as well as Procrustean approaches. The population suspected to be less influenced by anthropic activities exhibits lower levels of FA for the size parameters (plate surfaces, interlandmarks distances, and centroid size) than the population located in a polluted area. Conversely, it shows higher FA values for the shape parameters (landmarks configuration). Interindividual variations appear to be correlated to FA. Variations are orientated according to the main growth axis of the ambulacra, and their intensity is stronger in the large posterior plates, which are also the youngest. These results are discussed with respect to architectural constraints involved in the sea urchin growth. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 88, 165–177.
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