Seasonal changes in pyloric cecum and gonad indices during the annual reproductive cycle in the sea star asterias forbesi
Marine Biology 91(4): 553-560
ISSN/ISBN: 0025-3162 DOI: 10.1007/bf00392607
Seasonal changes in pyloric caecum and gonad indices were studied in a population of the seastar Asterias forbesi (Desor) from East Rockaway Inlet (Long Island, New York [USA]) during two annual cycles (1980/81, 1982/83). Pyloric caeca indices increased during fall, reached a maximum about April, and declined sharply to a minimum in mid-summer. Gonad indices increased during fall and winter and reached a maximum about May. Judging from gonad size analysis, spawning occurred in late June to early July, at bottom temperatures of 16.degree. to 18.degree. C. There was no long-term inverse relationship between pyloric caecum and gonad indices. Since nutrients and energy ingested during the most important fall feeding period are utilized stimultaneously for body growth and gonad development, it is unnecessary for the pyloric caeca to store nutrients over long periods as occurs in A. rubens and many other species. The specific caeca-gonad relationship is probaly an adaptation to the extreme seasonal thermal fluctuations of the NW Atlantic, which constrain the feeding activity of A. forbesi and limit the possibility of long-term storage. In this population, most individuals grow rapidly in their first year (including first two summers) and spawn in their third summer. Few seastars survive to spawn again in their fourth summer. However, gametogenesis may take place in some individuals in their second summer. Year-to-year variability in mean size at spawning may reflect temporal variation in environmental conditions (weather, food availability) at this site.