The behavioral ecology of plankton larvae can help us understand different developmental modes that different species undergo. There are three types of developmental modes of marine larvae- planktotrophic, lecithnotrophic, and direct development. Each developmental mode tells something about the dispersal capacity of the larvae, which depends on many factors that the larvae take into account before settling. We have learned in lecture that physical processes such as currents and tides, contribute to the type of developmental mode that larvae undergo. Biological processes such as food availability and predation also determine the type of developmental mode when marine organisms, like an octopus, will invest much energy into producing few offspring. The larvae of similar organisms will undergo direct development, in which more nutrient reserves are saved to eliminate time in the water column as bait for predators. Sessile organisms such as coral reefs produce many offspring with little to no nutrient reserves, and thus the larvae spend most of their time in the water column, swimming with the currents to help disperse. Much of what we have discussed in lab is about planktotrophic larvae, that make many choices and lifelong decisions before settling down on a substrate to develop into adults. The larvae may pass up a substrate because they sense predators in the vicinity, there are not enough bacteria to sustain their development, or because the currents around that substrate are too strong. The choice that larvae make to settle is a very interesting behavior that is still the main topic of much research because of its importance in understanding the development, dispersal, and life history traits of many marine species.
- Liana Roberson
Strathmann, R. R., T. P. Hughes, A. M. Kuris, K. C. Lindeman, S. G. Morgan, J. M. Pandolfi, and R. R. Warner. 2002. Evolution of local recruitment and its consequences for marine populations. Bull. Mar. Sci. 70(1) Suppl.: 377-396.