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Origin of marine invertebrate larvae on an Arctic inflow shelf

Raphaëlle Descôteaux*, Mats Huserbråten, Lis Lindal Jørgensen, Paul E. Renaud, Randi B. Ingvaldsen, Elizaveta A. Ershova, Bodil A. Bluhm

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Many benthic invertebrate taxa possess planktonic early life stages which drift with water currents and contribute to dispersal of the species, sometimes reaching areas beyond the current ranges of the adults. Until recently, it had been difficult to identify planktonic larvae to species level due to lack of distinguishing features, preventing detection of expatriate species. Here we used DNA metabarcoding of the COI gene to obtain species-level identification of early life stages of benthic invertebrates in zooplankton samples from the Barents Sea and around Svalbard, where, regionally, large volumes of warm Atlantic Water enter the Arctic from the south. We compared the larval community in the water column to the adult community on the seafloor to identify mismatches. In addition, we implemented particle tracking analysis to identify the possible areas of origin of larvae. Our results show that 30–45% of larval taxa—largely polychaetes and nudibranchs—were not local to the sampling area, though most were found nearby in the Barents Sea. In the particle tracking analysis, some larvae originating along the Norwegian coast were capable of reaching the northwest coast of Svalbard within 3 mo, but larvae found east of Svalbard had a more constrained possible area of origin which did not extend to the Norwegian coast. This study highlights largely regional-scale larval connectivity in the Barents Sea but demonstrates the potential for some long-lived larval taxa to travel to Svalbard and the Barents Sea from further south.