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Larval phenotypic plasticity in the boom-and-bust crown-of-thorns seastar, Acanthaster planci


Wolfe, K and Graba-Landry, A and Dworjanyn, SA and Byrne, M, Larval phenotypic plasticity in the boom-and-bust crown-of-thorns seastar, Acanthaster planci, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 539 pp. 179-189. ISSN 0171-8630 (2015) [Refereed Article]

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Inter-Research 2015

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps11495


Many echinoderm larvae exhibit phenotypic plasticity: a change in phenotype in response to environmental food levels. We investigated phenotypic plasticity in the larvae of the crown-of-thorns seastar Acanthaster planci, an opportunistic boom-and-bust species with larvae that have a strong response to food conditions. The increased predation pressure resulting from outbreaks (population explosions) of A. planci is deleterious to coral reefs, but the link between population outbreaks and larval ecology is poorly understood. We hypothesised that the larvae of A. planci would have a different morphological profile in the oligotrophic conditions typical of tropical waters than in the eutrophic conditions associated with increased nutrients. We predicted that larvae reared in low food conditions would increase their ciliated band length to enhance feeding potential. Larvae were fed algal concentrations representing starvation (0 cells ml-1), low food (oligotrophic; 1000 cells ml-1), high food (eutrophic; 10000 cells ml-1) or excessive food (100000 cells ml-1) conditions. A phenotypic response was evident. Larvae in the 2 high food treatments had a shorter ciliated band length relative to body size. Conversely, larvae in the starvation and low food treatments had longer ciliated bands relative to body size, a change that would enhance particle capture capacity and facilitate larval success. This plastic response of the larvae of A. planci could have flow-on effects to adult populations, potentially facilitating population outbreaks.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:crown-of-thorns, phenotypic plasticity, boom-and-bust, Great Barrier Reef
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in coastal and estuarine environments
UTAS Author:Graba-Landry, A (Dr Alexia Graba-Landry)
ID Code:147556
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:34
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2021-11-08
Last Modified:2021-12-23
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