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J Exp Mar Bio Ecol. 2000 Sep 20;252(2):255-279.

Evaluating whether velar lobe size indicates food limitation among larvae of the marine gastropod Crepidula fornicata.

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  • 1Biology Department, Tufts University, 02155, Medford, MA, USA


Disproportionately large feeding structures have been used to infer food limitation in some marine invertebrate larvae, but few studies have investigated whether other factors alter larval morphology in similar ways. In this study, larvae of Crepidula fornicata were reared either at five different food concentrations of Isochrysis galbana (clone T-ISO) at a single temperature (22 degrees C) (Experiments I and II); or on three different phytoplankton species (Isochrysis galbana, Dunaliella tertiolecta, and Pavlova lutheri) at both high and low concentrations at a single temperature (22 degrees C) (Experiment III); or at high and low concentrations of Isochrysis galbana at four different temperatures between 16 and 25 degrees C (Experiment IV). Shell lengths and velar lobe dimensions were determined for individual larvae at intervals to monitor relative rates of velar and shell growth. In addition (Experiment V), fast growing and slow growing larvae in Experiment I were examined separately to determine whether velar lobes developed at similar rates (relative to shell growth) for fast and slow growing larvae within individual cultures. In general, velar lobes grew significantly larger, relative to shell length, when larvae were reared at low food concentrations (P<0.0001); for larvae of similar shell length, the velar lobes of those fed 1x10(4) cells ml(-1) were on average 17.7% larger than those of larvae fed 18x10(4) cells ml(-1) of T-ISO. In contrast, larvae fed different phytoplankton species at equivalently high food concentrations did not differ in relative velum size (P=0.2666), even though shell growth rates differed significantly for larvae raised on the different diets, indicating substantial variation in food quality. We also found that relative rates of velum and shell growth differed among fast and slow growing individuals within treatments. Temperature had no significant effect on relative rates of velar and shell growth within the 16-25 degrees C range tested (P=0.121), but may have altered the relationship between food concentration and relative velar growth. These results indicate that dramatically reduced food concentration induces disproportionate growth in the velar lobes of C. fornicata, but that interpretation of data from field-collected individuals of this species will be made difficult by the potentially confounding effects of temperature, food quality, and differences in individual growth potential. Assessments of food limitation using morphological measurements for field-collected larvae will need to be supplemented with other indicators before convincing conclusions about the extent of food limitation in C. fornicata can be drawn.

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