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J Exp Mar Bio Ecol. 2001 Mar 30;258(1):1-13.

Effect of delayed metamorphosis on larval competence, and post-larval survival and growth, in the abalone Haliotis iris Gmelin.

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Cawthron Institute, Private Bag 2, Nelson, New Zealand


Marine invertebrate species vary in their ability to delay metamorphosis, and in the degree to which delayed metamorphosis compromises juvenile performance. Abalone (Haliotis iris) larvae were deprived of metamorphosis cues and the effects of delayed metamorphosis on larval competence, and post-larval growth and survival were quantified. Larvae were exposed to a metamorphosis inducer (the coralline alga Phymatolithon repandum (Foslie) Wilks and Woelkerling) on Days 11, 18, 22, 26, 30 and 34 post-fertilisation (temperature 16-17 degrees C). Post-larvae were reared on diatoms (Nitzschia longissima Grunow) for 3-4 weeks post-metamorphosis. Delayed metamorphosis caused progressive negative effects on post-larval performance. Virtually all larvae initiated metamorphosis in response to P. repandum, regardless of larval age. The proportion of post-larvae that developed post-larval shell growth within 2 days of metamorphosis induction dropped only approximately 20% from Day 11 to Day 26 (P>0.05), but was significantly lower by Day 30 and Day 34 (P<0.001). Larvae that metamorphosed on Days 11, 18 and 22 showed high survival (>80%) and growth rates (means of 20-22 µm shell length per day). In contrast, larvae that metamorphosed on Day 26 and Day 30 had poor survival (30-40%) and lower (P<0.05) growth rates (15-16 µm/day). Of the larvae that metamorphosed on Day 34, only 7 (30%) survived their first week post-metamorphosis, and they grew only 2 µm/day on average. Only one of these post-larvae (4%) survived the second week. The visible yolk supply diminished over the life of the larvae and was near zero by Day 34. Nearly all larvae had died by Day 38. H. iris larvae remained competent to metamorphose for at least 3 weeks after they attained competence. Post-larval growth and survival were not reduced if metamorphosis occurred within 3 weeks of fertilisation. This extended period of larval competence implies that H. iris larvae can potentially disperse for up to several weeks before successful metamorphosis.

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