1. The rate of oxygen consumption by eggs may not merely undergo no change at fertilization, as in the case of the starfish, but it decreases to about half in Chaetopterus and in Cumingia.
2. The absolute rate of oxygen consumption in mm.3 O2 per hour per 10 mm.3 eggs differs widely in several species of unfertilized eggs. It is very low in the sea urchin, intermediary in Nereis, and high in Chaetopterus and Cumingia. The range for these eggs is approximately 0.4 to 3.1 mm.3 O2 per hour per 10 mm.3 eggs at 21°C., in the ratio of about 1:8.
3. The absolute rates of oxygen consumption by the same fertilized eggs are much more nearly the same. They lie within the range 1.3 to 2.0 mm.3 O2 per hour per 10 mm.3 eggs at 21°C., in the ratio of approximately 1:1.5. Within this same range lie the values obtained by a number of investigators using a variety of eggs of invertebrates from several phyla. Amoeba proteus and frog skin also are within this range (see Fig. 2).
4. The changes in rate of oxygen consumption at fertilization by the different species of eggs, differing both in direction and magnitude, appear to be such as to bring the rate, when development is initiated, to about the same rate, which is also the rate of other comparable normally growing cells.
5. The direction and magnitude of the change in rate at fertilization therefore appears in the cases cited to be primarily a function of the absolute rate of oxygen consumption by the unfertilized eggs, which are characterized in their peculiar inhibited condition, among other things, by a wide range of respiratory rates.
6. It is not to be supposed that this range of rates will apply at all universally to eggs, especially to eggs of extremes in proportional content of inert materials, such as large yolky eggs. Fish and amphibian eggs for example respire at a much lower rate per unit volume. The effect on surface: volume ratios attending extremes of cell size might also be expected to shift the absolute rate.
7. The absolute rate of oxygen consumption by the eggs of the alga Fucus vesiculosus is considerably higher than the rates of the animal eggs measured. It is of the same order of magnitude as the rates of several other small-celled algae, which respire at a greater rate per unit volume than most non-motile animal cells.
8. The comparatively high rates of oxygen consumption by the inhibited (unfertilized) eggs of Chaetopterus and Cumingia are not directly associated with nuclear or morphological activity of the cell since they continue at the high rate for hours after cessation of the brief initial nuclear activity, which takes place when the eggs are placed in sea water.
9. It is concluded that the rate of oxygen consumption is not necessarily and probably not generally the limiting factor which causes inhibition of the unfertilized egg. Increase in rate of oxygen consumption is not directly related to the initiation of development, in general, nor even necessarily concomitant. It is not improbable that the low rate of oxygen consumption is an immediate part of the cause of inhibition of the unfertilized sea urchin egg, but this is a special case.
10. This thesis, that the rate of oxygen consumption is not necessarily nor ordinarily the limiting factor in the inhibition of the unfertilized egg, and conversely that increase in the rate of oxygen consumption is not usually the essential feature of fertilization, is quite in agreement with the general relations between the rate of oxygen consumption on the one hand and anesthesia, growth, and development on the other in fertilized eggs and other organisms.
11. This conclusion is opposed to Loeb's explanation of the essential feature of fertilization, as an increase in oxidation rate or more strictly to generalization of his hypothesis to include eggs other than those of the sea urchins (or of other similar special cases which may be discovered). It extends to fertilization (the initiation of development) his and Wasteney's well established conclusion that "oxidation is not the independent variable in development."
12. It is suggested that the crux of the problem of fertilization lies in the nature of the inhibition of the unfertilized egg. Certain similarities between this condition, arrived at spontaneously in the case of the egg cell, and the condition of cells in narcosis or anesthesia are pointed out.
13. Although the rate of oxygen consumption by the unfertilized eggs of Chaetopterus and Cumingia cannot be regarded as the limiting factor which causes the inhibition of the eggs, in these and other cases with different absolute rates, it appears highly probable that the rate of oxygen consumption is in some way, at present obscure, tied up with or related to the condition of inhibition. This seems probable especially in view of the sharp change in rate which in most cases immediately attends cessation of the inhibition, but the relationship may be a non-causal one, as in narcosis.
14. It must be borne in mind that oxygen consumption is not necessarily a complete measure of oxidation, and that other measures such as of heat and metabolite production are necessary before the complete amount of oxidation is known. When these are completely worked out, if free energy relations are known, it is probable that more direct and inclusive relations may be found between oxidation, growth, development, and anesthesia. Generalization of Loeb's hypothesis, using "oxidation" in the broad sense might then turn out to hold, with fertilization fitting into the general scheme, but there is no basis for it at the present time.