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Behavioral variability of hatchlings modifies dispersal potential in crown conch (Melongena corona): Why do larvae crawl away but sometimes swim?

Citation

Hooks, Alexandra; Burgess, Scott (2021), Behavioral variability of hatchlings modifies dispersal potential in crown conch (Melongena corona): Why do larvae crawl away but sometimes swim?, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.18931zcwj

Abstract

The diversity and consequences of development in marine invertebrates has, for a long time, provided the opportunity to understand different evolutionary solutions to living in variable environments. However, discrete classifications of development can impede a full understanding of adaptation to variable environments when behavioral, morphological, or physiological flexibility and variation exists within traditionally defined modes of development. We report here novel behavioral variability in hatchlings of a marine gastropod, the Florida crown conch (Melongena corona), that has broad significance for understanding the correlated evolution of development, dispersal, and reproductive strategies in variable environments. All hatchlings crawl away from egg capsules after emergence as larval pediveligers. Some subsequently swim for a brief period (seconds to minutes) before crawling again. From detailed observations of 120 individuals over 30 days, we observed 28 (23.3%) hatchlings swimming at least once (8 – 50% per maternal brood). The propensity to swim was unrelated to time spent encapsulated or size at hatching, and lasted for 22 days. We manipulated hypothesized environmental cues, and found that the proportion of hatchlings that swam was highest in the absence of cues related to habitat or juvenile food, and lowest when only habitat cues were present. The relative growth rate of hatchlings was highest when habitats contained a putative juvenile food source. About 44% of hatchlings were competent to metamorphose at emergence, but did not metamorphose at this time in the lab or the field. The rate of metamorphosis increased with age and depended on the presence of unknown cues in the field. Crawl-away larvae with prolonged swimming ability may be an adaptation to balance the unpredictable risks of exclusively benthic or pelagic development and allow the option to disperse to higher quality habitat.

Usage Notes

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