Classroom Explorations: Model Organisms
Sea urchins are spiny marine organisms; many different species are found in oceans around the world. Male and female individuals produce eggs and sperm that are shed freely into seawater. Scientists have long used the urchin as a model for studying fertilization and development.
In the video, penetration by a single sperm triggers the rapid formation of the fertilization membrane around a sea urchin (Lytechinus pictus) egg. (The elapsed time is about 2 minutes.)
Sea urchin eggs were fertilized, then immediately mounted in seawater between a slide and coverslip (using a silicon spacer). Images were taken at room temperature on a compound inverted microscope using a 40x DIC objective and digital camera.