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Rates of fission, somatic growth and gonadal development of a fissiparous sea star, Allostichaster insignis, in New Zealand
Barker, M.F.; Scheibling, R.E. (2008). Rates of fission, somatic growth and gonadal development of a fissiparous sea star, Allostichaster insignis, in New Zealand. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 153(5): 815-824.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Barker, M.F.
  • Scheibling, R.E.

    Seasonal changes in population structure and incidence of fission were measured in intertidal and subtidal populations of Allostichaster insignis, a fissiparous sea star. Population size structure was stable over the course of the 1-year study. Sea stars in the subtidal zone attained greater maximum size (mean arm length, R = 35 mm) than those in the intertidal population (20 mm). Fission rates were greatest among small individuals (R < 20 mm). The frequency of fission ranged from 5 to 32% with peaks in early austral summer in the intertidal zone, and in autumn and winter in the subtidal zone. Sexual reproduction occurred in early spring in sea stars larger than 12 mm. The populations were heavily biased toward males. In the laboratory, A. insignis of three size classes (small, R = 9–13 mm; medium, 19–21 mm; and large, 29–31 mm) were fed mussels ad libitum or starved (not fed macroscopic food) for ~1 year in a 3 × 2 factorial experiment. Small and medium-sized sea stars divided throughout the experiment and the ramets of most individuals regenerated sufficiently to divide again after 6–9 months. Unfed sea stars did not undergo fission (with one exception), had a higher mortality rate, and did not grow. Small, fed sea stars grew significantly faster than medium-sized or large individuals. At the end of the experiment, the pyloric caeca index (a measure of nutritional condition) was greater in fed than in unfed animals. Gonads (only testes were observed) developed in medium-sized and large, fed sea stars. Our field and laboratory results indicate that asexual reproduction in A. insignis predominantly occurs in small, well-nourished individuals. Ramets grow gradually through repeated fission and regeneration to a size (mean length of regenerating arms, R r ~ 20 mm) at which they begin to switch to sexual reproduction as the dominant reproductive mode.

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