University Of Tasmania

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Larval settlement in echinoderms: a review of processes and patterns

posted on 2023-05-22, 20:16 authored by Doll, PC, Caballes, CF, Hoey, AS, Uthicke, S, Scott LingScott Ling, Pratchett, MS
Echinoderms are a common component of benthic marine ecosystems, with many being ecologically and/or economically important. Like many marine organisms, most echinoderms have a bipartite life history with a planktonic larval phase and a benthic adult phase. The transition between these phases (i.e. settlement) is complex and comprises a cascade of events including the location, exploration and selection of suitable benthic habitat, and metamorphosis to adapt from a pelagic to a benthic lifestyle. This review provides a comprehensive synthesis of the various processes involved in the settlement phase across all five extant classes of echinoderms. Central to the review is a detailed assessment of settlement behaviour and the diverse mechanisms of settlement induction. Most echinoderms, including keystone sea urchins, starfishes and sea cucumbers, do not settle indiscriminately; specific environmental conditions or cues are often necessary for settlement to occur, resulting in marked spatial and temporal variability in settlement rates. Fluctuations in settlement, in turn, lead to major changes in the local abundance of echinoderms and often have profound ecological consequences, due to the pivotal role that many echinoderms play in ecosystem functioning. Given important knowledge gaps persist, this review also explores opportunities for future research to advance our understanding of this critical early life-history phase.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review




SJ Hawkins






Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Taylor & Francis

Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2022 The Authors

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Coastal or estuarine biodiversity; Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in coastal and estuarine environments