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Evol Dev 2004 Jan 01;66:382-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2004.04047.x.
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Thyroid hormones determine developmental mode in sand dollars (Echinodermata: Echinoidea).

Heyland A , Reitzel AM , Hodin J .

Evolutionary transitions in larval nutritional mode have occurred on numerous occasions independently in many marine invertebrate phyla. Although the evolutionary transition from feeding to nonfeeding development has received considerable attention through both experimental and theoretical studies, mechanisms underlying the change in life history remain poorly understood. Facultative feeding larvae (larvae that can feed but will complete metamorphosis without food) presumably represent an intermediate developmental mode between obligate feeding and nonfeeding. Here we show that an obligatorily feeding larva can be transformed into a facultative feeding larva when exposed to the thyroid hormone thyroxine. We report that larvae of the subtropical sand dollar Leodia sexiesperforata (Echinodermata: Echinoidea) completed metamorphosis without exogenous food when treated with thyroxine, whereas the starved controls (no thyroxine added) did not. Leodia sexiesperforata juveniles from the thyroxine treatment were viable after metamorphosis but were significantly smaller and contained less energy than sibling juveniles reared with exogenous food. In a second starvation experiment, using an L. sexiesperforata female whose eggs were substantially larger than in the first experiment (202+/-5 vs. 187+/-5 microm), a small percentage of starved L. sexiesperforata larvae completed metamorphosis in the absence of food. Still, thyroxine-treated larvae in this experiment completed metamorphosis faster and in much higher numbers than in the starved controls. Furthermore, starved larvae of the sand dollar Mellita tenuis, which developed from much smaller eggs (100+/-2 microm), did not complete metamorphosis either with or without excess thyroxine. Based on these data, and from recent experiments with other echinoids, we hypothesize that thyroxine plays a major role in echinoderm metamorphosis and the evolution of life history transitions in this group. We discuss our results in the context of current life history models for marine invertebrates, emphasizing the role of egg size, juvenile size, and endogenous hormone production for the evolution of nonfeeding larval development.

PubMed ID: 15509220
Article link: Evol Dev