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Inhibition of settlement and metamorphosis of the ascidian Herdmania curvata by non-geniculate coralline algae

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 11:41 authored by Degnan, BM, Craig JohnsonCraig Johnson
The surfaces of non-geniculate coralline algae (NCA) are known to induce the settlement and metamorphosis of disparate marine taxa. In this study we investigate the responsiveness of larvae of Herdmania curvata (Ascidiacea: Stolidobranchia) to three species of NCA (Neogoniolithon brassica-florida, Hydrolithon onkodes, and Lithothamnium prolifer) that cohabit the slope and crest of Heron Reef, Great Barrier Reef. H. curvata larvae were first exposed to these NCA at or within 2 h of hatching, which is 1 to 2 h prior to attaining competence, and then cultured continuously with the NCA for 12 to 14 h. Rates of settlement and metamorphosis of H. curvata cultured in laboratory chambers in the presence of the different NCA were significantly lower than spontaneous rates in seawater. The limited settlement in treatments containing NCA were confined entirely to the chamber periphery, and settlement never occurred on the surface of the NCA. The inhibitory effect was dose-dependent and was stronger in N. brassica-florida and H. onkodes than in L. prolifer. Larvae that did not settle in treatments with NCA had rounded anterior trunks and, in extreme cases, kinked tails with rounded and dissociated tail muscle cells. In some individuals, we observed the anterior chemosensory papillae being sloughed off the larval body. Morphological analysis of trunk ectodermal and mesenchymal nuclei of larvae cultured in the presence of the NCA revealed that general necrotic cell death was occurring. Importantly, H. curvata larvae that were exposed to NCA could not subsequently be induced to metamorphose in KCl-elevated seawater, whereas larvae not exposed to NCA metamorphosed at high rates in KCl-elevated seawater.


Publication title

Biological Bulletin








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Marine Biological Laboratory

Place of publication

Woods Hole, MA USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity

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