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Reproduction of Antarctic Benthic Marine Invertebrates: Tempos, Modes, and Timing

JOHN S. PEARSE, JAMES B. MCCLINTOCK, ISIDRO BOSCH
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icb/31.1.65 65-80 First published online: 1 February 1991

Abstract

Work on the life histories of common antarctic benthic marine invertebrates over the past several decades demands a revision of several widely held paradigms. First, contrary to expectations derived from work on temperate species, there is little or no evidence for temperature adaptation with respect to reproduction (gametogenesis), development, and growth. It remains to be determined whether the slow rates of these processes reflect some inherent inability to adapt to low temperatures, or are a response to features of the antarctic marine environment not directly related to low temperature, such as low food resources. Secondly, contrary to the widely accepted opinion designated as “Thorson's rule,” pelagic development is common in many groups of shallow-water marine invertebrates. In fact in some groups, such as asteroids,pelagic development is as prevalent in McMurdo Sound, the southern-most open-water marine environment in the world, as in central California. In other taxonomic groups, especially gastropods, there does seem to be a genuine trend toward non-pelagic development from tropical to antarctic latitudes. Although this trend has been predicted by theoretical models, its underlying causes appear to be group specific rather than general. Thirdly, pelagic lecithotrophic development, often considered to be of negligible importance, occurs in many shallow-water antarctic marine macroinvertebrates. Pelagic lecithotrophy may be an adaptation to a combination of poor food conditions in antarctic waters most of the year and slow rates of development. Nevertheless, some of the most abundant and widespread antarctic marine invertebrates have pelagic planktotrophic larvae that take very long times to complete development to metamorphosis. These species areparticularly prevalent in productive regions of shallow water (<30 m), which are frequently disturbed by anchor ice formation, and the production of numerous pelagic planktotrophic larvaemay represent a strategy for colonization. Although planktotrophic larvae tend to be seasonal in occurrence, their production is not linked particularly closely to the mid-summer pulse of phytoplankton production. These larvae show no evidence of starvation, even during times when phytoplankton abundance is very low, and they may depend on unusual sources of food, such as bacteria. How they escape the selective conditions that apparently led to a predominance of non-feeding modes of development in antarctic marine invertebrates remains as a major challenge for antarctic marine biology.

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