Larval survivorship and settlement of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) at varying algal cell densities

Pratchett, Morgan S., Dworjanyn, Symon, Mos, Benjamin, Caballes, Ciemon F., Thompson, Cassandra A., and Blowes, Shane (2017) Larval survivorship and settlement of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) at varying algal cell densities. Diversity, 9 (1). pp. 1-11.

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Abstract

The dispersal potential of crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) larvae is important in understanding both the initiation and spread of population outbreaks, and is fundamentally dependent upon how long larvae can persist while still retaining the capacity to settle. This study quantified variation in larval survivorship and settlement rates for CoTS maintained at three different densities of a single-celled flagellate phytoplankton, Proteomonas sulcata (1 x 10^3, 1 x 10^4, and 1 x 10^5 cells/mL). Based on the larval starvation hypothesis, we expected that low to moderate levels of phytoplankton prey would significantly constrain both survival and settlement. CoTS larvae were successfully maintained for up to 50 days post-fertilization, but larval survival differed significantly between treatments. Survival was greatest at intermediate food levels (1 x 10^4 cells/mL), and lowest at high (1 x 10^5 cells/mL) food levels. Rates of settlement were also highest at intermediate food levels and peaked at 22 days post-fertilization. Peak settlement was delayed at low food levels, probably reflective of delayed development, but there was no evidence of accelerated development at high chlorophyll concentrations. CoTS larvae were recorded to settle 17–43 days post-fertilization, but under optimum conditions with intermediate algal cell densities, peak settlement occurred at 22 days post-fertilization. Natural fluctuations in nutrient concentrations and food availability may affect the number of CoTS that effectively settle, but seem unlikely to influence dispersal dynamics.

Item ID: 47558
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Acanthaster; coral reefs; food limitation; larval competency; planktonic larval duration (PLD); nutrient limitation hypothesis; larval starvation hypothesis
Additional Information:

© 2017 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/license/by/4.0/).

ISSN: 1424-2818
Funders: Queensland Government Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation (DSITI)
Projects and Grants: Advance Queensland Accelerate Partnership
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2017 03:24
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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