PHENOTYPTIC PLASTICITY IN LARVAL AND JUVENILE MARINE INVERTEBRATES: EFFECTS OF PREDATORS, FOOD, GRAVITY, AND SUNLIGHT
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Phenotypic plasticity, the ability of a single genotype to be expressed as a range of phenotypes in response to environmental variation, is a widespread phenomenon. Documented increasingly among the larval stages of marine organisms, phenotypic plasticity in the veliger larvae of the marine snail Littorina scutulata was investigated in response to predatory, nutritional, and gravitational stimuli. Veligers developed rounder shells, smaller apertures, and reinforced aperture margins in response to water-borne cues from predatory crab larvae. The nature and degree of the induced-morphologies depended on cue composition and conferred decreased vulnerability to predation. Food-limited veligers developed larger feeding and swimming structures (vela) with longer cilia relative to shell size compared to larvae raised with high food. This inducible offense corresponded with a decrease in vertical swimming speed, an unexpected result possibly reflecting behavioral manipulation of individual velar components. A cell proliferation assay indicated that growth of the larger structure was achieved partially by a steady rate of cell division over a longer period of time; an initially higher level of cell proliferation in veligers raised on high food dropped off sharply. Velar lobe asymmetry, where one lobe is larger than the other, may exist to offset an asymmetry in weight distribution due to how the larval shell is carried. The larger velar lobe overlies the protruding spire of the larval shell. Bi- and multi-lobed vela get bigger with shell size but follow different rules with regards to the relationship between velar asymmetry and shell asymmetry. Experimental alternations of mass distribution of the larval shell caused changes in the ratio of area between each side of the velum and total velar growth for larvae of L. scutulata. Following settlement and metamorphosis, juveniles of intertidal marine invertebrates are subject to additional stressors that can manifest as phenotypic variation. Color differences between juvenile and adult Strongylocentrotus purpuratus were shown to be caused by variation in light exposure. Green juveniles raised in sunlight turned purple (due to more pigment) and showed decreased susceptibility to artificial UVR than urchins kept in the dark, which remained green (due to less pigment). This dissertation includes previously unpublished co-authored material.