Crude Oil and Its Burnt Residues Induce Metamorphosis in Marine Invertebrates

Rodrigo Almeda*, Sinja Rist*, Anette M. Christensen, Eleftheria Antoniou , Constantine Parinos, Mikael Olsson, Craig M. Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Metamorphosis is a critical process in the life cycle of most marine benthic invertebrates, determining their transition from plankton to benthos. It affects dispersal and settlement and therefore decisively influences the dynamics of marine invertebrate populations. An extended period of metamorphic competence is an adaptive feature of numerous invertebrate species that increases the likelihood of finding a habitat suitable for settlement and survival. We found that crude oil and residues of burnt oil rapidly induce metamorphosis in two different marine invertebrate larvae, a previously unknown sublethal effect of oil pollution. When exposed to environmentally realistic oil concentrations, up to 84% of tested echinoderm larvae responded by undergoing metamorphosis. Similarly, up to 87% of gastropod larvae metamorphosed in response to burnt oil residues. This study demonstrates that crude oil and its burned residues can act as metamorphic inducers in marine planktonic larvae, short-circuiting adaptive metamorphic delay. Future studies on molecular pathways and oil-bacteria-metamorphosis interactions are needed to fully understand the direct or indirect mechanisms of oil-induced metamorphosis in marine invertebrates. With 90% of chronic oiling occurring in coastal areas, this previously undescribed impact of crude oil on planktonic larvae may have global implications for marine invertebrate populations and biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number48
Pages (from-to)19304-19315
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Metamorphosis
  • Crude oil
  • Planktonic larvae
  • Pollution
  • Benthic recruitment


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