Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Nikki L. Adams


Field surveys of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus demonstrated that concentrations of natural sunscreens, mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs), were higher in females than males for both gonadal and epidermal tissues, increased in ovaries as spawning season approached, and were influenced by the sea urchins’ microhabitat. Sea urchins occupying burrows, or “pits”, had lower concentrations of MAAs than those outside pits, suggesting a trade-off between physical and UV protection. Overall, UV irradiance did not influence MAA accumulation in gonadal tissues. However, males increased their allocation of MAAs to epidermal tissues in the microhabitat with the highest irradiance. Relative concentrations of individual MAAs were similar for epidermal tissues from both sexes and ovaries, providing broadband UVA/UVB absorbance, but testes contained principally one MAA, palythine. This is the first study to demonstrate that S. purpuratus and eight species of macroalgae in California have MAAs, and that the concentrations can be influenced by microhabitat.

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