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Chemical composition and microstructural morphology of spines and tests of three common sea urchins species of the sublittoral zone of the Mediterranean Sea

Varkoulis Anastasios, Voulgaris Konstantinos, Zaoutsos Stefanos, Stratakis Antonios, Vafidis Dimitrios

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Year 2020
Type of Item Peer-Reviewed Journal Publication
Bibliographic Citation A. Varkoulis, K. Voulgaris, S. Zaoutsos, A. Stratakis, and D. Vafidis, “Chemical composition and microstructural morphology of spines and tests of three common sea urchins species of the sublittoral zone of the Mediterranean Sea,” Animals, vol. 10, no. 8, Aug. 2020, doi: 10.3390/ani10081351
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In the Mediterranean Sea, the species Arbacia lixula, Paracentrotus lividus and Sphaerechinus granularis often coexist, occupying different subareas of the same habitat. The mechanical and chemical properties of their calcitic skeletons are affected both by their microstructural morphology and chemical composition. The present study describes the main morphologic features and the possible temporal differences in elemental composition of the test and spines of the three species, while also determining the molar ratio of each element of their crystalline phase. Scanning electron microscopy showed major differences in the ultrastructure of the spines, while minor differences in the test were also noticed. More specifically, the spines of all three sea urchins possess wedges, however A. lixula exhibits bridges connecting each wedge, while barbs are observed in the wedges of S. granularis. The spines of P. lividus are devoid of both microstructures. Secondary tubercles are absent in the test of A. lixula, while the tests and spines of all three species are characterized by different superficial stereom. Energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy detected that Ca, Mg, S, Na and Cl were present in all specimen. Mg and Mg/Ca showed significant differences between species both in test and spines with S. granularis having the highest concentration. The spines of P. lividus exhibited lowest values between all species. Differences between spines and test were observed in all elements for P. lividus except S. A. lixula exhibited different concentrations between test and spines for Ca, Mg and Mg/Ca, whereas S. granularis for Mg, Cl and Mg/Ca. Finally, temporal differences for Ca were observed in the test of P. lividus and the spines of S. granularis, for Mg in test of S. granularis, for S in the spines of A. lixula and the test and spine of S. granularis, for Na in the test of P. lividus and A. lixula and for Cl and Mg/Ca in the test P. lividus. Powder X-ray diffractometry determined that, out of all three species, the spines of P. lividus contained the least Mg, while the test of the same species exhibited higher Mg concentration compared to A. lixula and S. granularis. The current study, although not labeling the specimens attempts to estimate potential time-related elemental differences among other results. These may occur due to changes in abiotic factors, probably water temperature, salinity and/or pH. Divergence in food preference and food availability may also play a key role in possible temporal differences the skeletons of these species

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