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Biol Bull. 2008 Jun;214(3):329-38.

Can salinity-induced mortality explain larval vertical distribution with respect to a halocline?

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Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada.


For the larvae of two echinoderm species that coexist in Atlantic Canada (bipinnaria of the sea star Asterias rubens and 4- and 6-arm echinoplutei of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), we examined the effect of short- and long-term exposure to salinity (ranging from 18 to 35) on the probability of larval survival in laboratory experiments. We also related larval vertical distributions in response to sharp haloclines generated in the laboratory to survival probability in the salinity of different layers in the water column. For both species and developmental stages, survival probability decreased with decreasing salinity, and a salinity range of 24-27 emerged as the critical threshold for larval tolerance. The relationship between the proportion of larvae that crossed a halocline into the top water layer and the survival probability of larvae in the salinity of that layer was significant for both species. Interestingly, the shape of this response was species-specific but not stage-specific for S. droebachiensis. Our findings suggest that larval avoidance of low-salinity water layers may be an adaptive behavior that increases survival and indirectly influences larval distribution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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