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Biol Bull. 2003 Jun;204(3):256-69.

Larval behavioral, morphological changes, and nematocyte dynamics during settlement of actinulae of Tubularia mesembryanthemum, Allman 1871 (Hydrozoa: Tubulariidae).

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Fusetani Biofouling Project, ERATO, JST (formerly Research & Development Corporation of Japan), Isogo-ku, Yokohama 235-0017, Japan.


The marine colonial hydroid Tubularia mesembryanthemum produces a morphologically unique dispersive stage, the actinula larva. Detailed observations were made on the behaviors and nematocyte dynamics of actinula larvae during attachment and morphogenesis by employing microscopic and time lapse video techniques. These observations produced four primary results. (1) Actinula larvae demonstrated two forms of attachment: temporary attachment by atrichous isorhiza (AI)-nematocysts discharged from the aboral tentacle (AT) tips-and permanent settlement by cement secretion from the columnar gland cells of the basal protrusion. (2) During larval settlement, numerous AIs were discharged from the AT tips with sinuous movement and rubbing of the tentacles onto the substrata, leading to "nematocyte-printing" around the settlement site. (3) Simultaneous with the discharge of the AIs, migration of stenoteles, desmonemes, and microbasic mastigophores occurred, resulting in a dramatic change of nematocyte composition in the ATs after larval settlement. This was in parallel with changes in larval behavior and the tentacle function. (4) Nematocyte-printing behavior during settlement could be recognized as metamorphic behavior responsible for irreversible changes in AT function, from attachment to feeding and defense.

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