MEPS 246:153-162 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps246153

Larval activity levels and delayed metamorphosis affect post-larval performance in the colonial ascidian Diplosoma listerianum

Dustin J. Marshall1,*, Jan A. Pechenik1,2, Michael J. Keough1

1Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
2Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155, USA

ABSTRACT: It is becoming widely recognized that extending the larval period of marine invertebrates, especially of species with non-feeding larvae, can affect post-larval performance. As these carry-over effects are presumed to be caused by the depletion of larval energy reserves, we predicted that the level of larval activity would also affect post-larval performance. This prediction was tested with the cosmopolitan colonial ascidian Diplosoma listerianum in field experiments in southern Australia. Diplosoma larvae, brooded in the parent colony, are competent to settle immediately after spawning, and they remain competent to metamorphose for >15 h. Some larvae were induced to metamorphose 0 to 6 h after release, whilst others were induced to swim actively by alternating light and dark periods for up to 3 h prior to metamorphosis. Juvenile colonies were then transplanted to a subtidal field site in Port Phillip Bay and left to grow for up to 3 wk. Extending the larval period and increasing the amount of swimming both produced carry-over effects on post-larval performance. Colonies survived at different rates among experiments, but larval experience did not affect survival rates. Delays in metamorphosis and increased swimming activity did, however, reduce colony growth rates dramatically, resulting in 50% fewer zooids per colony. Moreover, such colonies produced initial zooids with smaller feeding structures, with the width of branchial baskets reduced by 10 to 15%. These differences in branchial basket size persisted and were still apparent in newly budded zooids 3 wk after metamorphosis. Our results suggest that, for D. listerianum, larval maintenance, swimming, and metamorphosis all use energy from a common pool, and increases in the allocation to maintenance or swimming come at the expense of post-larval performance.

KEY WORDS: Delayed metamorphosis · Ascidian · Carry-over effects · Larvae · Settlement

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