Hold the lube: the implications of water accommodated petroleum fractions on fertilization success in Dendraster excentricus.


  • Alyssa Megan Ball Simon Fraser University
  • Persephone Spurgeon University of Alberta



            Echinoderms are highly sensitive to hydrocarbons because they cannot metabolize such substances, especially during early stages of development. With expanding pipelines, crude oil import and export via boat vessels in the Pacific Northwest will likely increase, endangering native marine species and their respective communities. The sand dollar Dendraster excentricus is among the species likely to be affected and provides a good indicator species for modeling the effects of hydrocarbons on marine communities, given its array of food web interactions with our species. Few studies have examined the effects of hydrocarbon exposure on egg fertilization in D. excentricus. Our study exposes D. excentricus gametes to water accommodated fractions (WAFs) of petroleum, and measures the density of successfully fertilized eggs. Stock solutions of gametes were collected from twenty different sand dollars per trial, mimicking natural broadcast spawning, which results in a diverse gene pool at spawning time. Different combinations of diesel exposed gametes and non-exposed gametes were mixed into the following treatments: unexposed sperm and egg, diesel exposed sperm and unexposed egg, unexposed sperm and diesel exposed egg, and diesel exposed sperm and egg. Our results suggest a general trend whereby fertilized egg densities decrease when only eggs are exposed to diesel. However, statistical modelling does not support an effect of diesel treatment on the number of successful fertilization events in D. excentricus.

Author Biographies

Alyssa Megan Ball, Simon Fraser University

Archaeology major, biology minor and CRM certificate holder.

Undergraduate (expected graduation Spring 2017)

Completed the Fall Program at BMSC (Fall 2016)


Persephone Spurgeon, University of Alberta

Biology Major, Pre-vet program


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