Marine Biology

, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 337–349 | Cite as

Fuels for development: evolution of maternal provisioning in asterinid sea stars

  • T. A. A. ProwseEmail author
  • M. A. Sewell
  • M. Byrne
Research Article


For marine invertebrates, larval developmental mode is inseparably linked to the nutritional content of the egg. Within the asterinid family of sea stars there have been multiple, independent, evolutionary transitions to lecithotrophic development from the ancestral, planktotrophic state. To investigate the evolution of maternal investment and development within the Asterinidae, we quantified individual lipid classes and total protein for eggs and larval stages of closely related species representing three developmental modes (planktotrophy, planktonic lecithotrophy and benthic lecithotrophy). Within species, maternal provisioning differed between females indicating that egg quality varied with parentage. Maternal investment was related to egg size but, after correcting for egg volume, we identified two major oogenic modifications associated with the evolution of lecithotrophic development: (1) a reduction in protein deposition that probably reflects the reduced structural requirements of nonfeeding larvae, (2) an increase in deposition of a single class of energetic lipid, triglyceride (TG). The exception was Parvulastra exigua, which has benthic, lecithotrophic development and lays eggs with a lipid to protein ratio close to that of planktotrophs. This oogenic strategy may provide P. exigua larvae with a protein “weight-belt” that assists in maintaining a benthic existence. Asterinids with planktotrophic development used a significant portion of egg TG to build a feeding bipinnaria larva. For Meridiastra mortenseni, female-specific differences in egg TG were still evident at the bipinnaria stage indicating that egg quality has flow-on effects for larval fitness. In lecithotrophic asterinids, TG reserves were not depleted in development to the larval stage whereas protein stores may help fuel early larval development. Available data indicate that there may be two evolutionarily stable egg lipid profiles for free-spawning, temperate echinoderms.


Lipid Class Maternal Investment Lecithotrophic Larva Methyl Dodecanoate Lecithotrophic Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thanks to Inke Falkner for specimen and sample collection, Silver Bishop for help with lipid analyses, and Dr Kirsten Benkendorff for laboratory space. The Bosch Institute (University of Sydney) provided facilities for protein analyses. This manuscript benefited from the comments of three anonymous reviewers. This research was funded by a grant to MB from the Australian Research Council and complied with current laws regarding experimental science conducted in Australia and New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Anatomy and Histology, Bosch Institute, F13University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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