Settlement preferences and early migration of the tropical sea cucumber Holothuria scabra
Mercier, A and Battaglene, SC and Hamel, JF, Settlement preferences and early migration of the tropical sea cucumber Holothuria scabra, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 249, (1) pp. 89-110 . ISSN 0022-0981 (2000) [Refereed Article]
Settlement and post-settlement processes of the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra Jaeger were studied in the laboratory. Independent and paired choice experiments revealed that several substrates could induce metamorphosis into pentactulae, but that specific substrates favoured settlement. Leaves of seagrass Thalassia hemprichii, with or without their natural bio-film, yielded the highest settlement rates (4.8-10.5%). T. hemprichii was preferred as a settlement substrate over sand, crushed coral, several other plant species and artificial seagrass leaves with or without a bio-film. Only settlement on the seagrass, Enhalus acoroides, was similar to that recorded for T. hemprichii. In the absence of a substrate, the larvae delayed settlement for nearly 96 h and survival was less than 0.5%. Sand and crushed coral, either alone or together, induced settlement from < 1.5% of the available larvae. The pentactulae found on sand, coral and in bare containers were 10-35% smaller than those on T. hemprichii leaves. Soluble extracts from T. hemprichii and E. acoroides successfully induced metamorphosis and settlement on clean plastic surfaces. Newly settled juveniles remained on the seagrass leaves for 4-5 weeks before migrating to sand at around 6 mm in length. Prior to this, the juveniles spent 4-5 days moving on and off the leaves. Once on the sand, the juveniles became deposit-feeders, but did not show the typical burrowing behaviour of older specimens until they reached around 11 mm in length. The larvae of H. scabra appear to actively select seagrass leaves, possibly through chemical detection. We hypothesise that larvae settling on seagrass have an increased chance of growth and survival because they are provided with a suitable substrate on which to grow, and a bridge to sand substrates as they become deposit-feeders. (C) 2000 Elsevier science B.V.