Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Growth of the inshore sea urchinPsammechinus miliaris (Gmelin) was studied in Loch Creran, western Scotland, using the skeletal growth-marker tetracycline in order to test the validity of natural growth-banding in the coronal test plates as annual age-markers. In order to test whether tetracycline affected the growth ofP. miliaris, an injected and a control group of urchins were held in identical conditions in running sea water aquaria for 21 mo from 1989 to 1991 and measured periodically. A small but significant difference in mean size of injected compared to controls was recorded at 12 mo, but none during subsequent measurements. Size measurements during the trial were consistent with an annual growth cycle, with a maximum in spring and slowing or cessation of growth during autumn/winter. Tetracycline-labelled juveniles were recovered up to 18 mo after initial tagging in mark/recapture experiments undertaken from 1987 to 1989 at two intertidal marked quadrats in Loch Creran. Large numbers ofP. miliaris were also marked with tetracycline and held for 1 yr at 10 m depth in seabed cages in Loch Creran during 1988–1990. All of the intertidal recoveries, and about 69% of the caged specimens that had been successfully labelled, showed a consistent relationship between the position of the tetracycline tag and the pattern of natural growth zones. The remainder were mostly large, slow-growing urchins with the tag positioned near the plate margin. In these the outer growth bands were closely spaced and, particularly if major growth bands seemed to be broken up into double or multiple lines, the major bands were impossible to resolve at the margin. The results support the assumption that in wild populations the dark bands visible with reflected light (translucent in transmitted light) after charring the plate are formed when skeletal growth has stopped or slowed in winter. These lie between wider, lighter coloured (opaque in transmitted light) zones of active plate growth in spring/summer. The dark band formed beyond the tag usually was made up of several closely spaced fine lines, or sometimes of two closely spaced dark bands. The wide growth zones beyond the tag, like those formed previously, usually were broken by fine, dark lines that may represent brief discontinuities in growth. From tagging, the double dark bands can be related to growth over one year; but such anomalous bands, along with the general presence of fine, dark lines interrupting the growth zones, make it difficult reliably to estimate age from the closely spaced peripheral banding on older, slow-growing urchins.
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