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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 449 - Feature article
Aggregation of the tubeworm, Galeolaria caespitosa. Larval settlement of these and other invertebrates is influenced by ciliates on the substratum. Photo: J. Shimeta

Shimeta J, Cutajar J, Watson MG, Vlamis T


Influences of biofilm-associated ciliates on the settlement of marine invertebrate larvae


Settlement of benthic invertebrate larvae is a strong determinant of the structure and dynamics of natural populations, as well as the biofouling of marine infrastructure, ships, and aquaculture operations. Settlement cues from biofilm microbes including bacteria and diatoms have been studied extensively, but the importance of protozoa, which are ubiquitous in biofilms, has been unknown. Shimeta and co-workers show that mixed ciliate assemblages have large, species-specific effects on settlement and post-settlement mortality of common fouling invertebrates, including inhibition of a tubeworm and a mussel, facilitation of a different tubeworm, and no effect on a bryozoan. Ciliate assemblages could thus affect invertebrate recruitment and species assemblages in the field, especially because biofilm ciliates are highly variable over time and space.


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