The distribution and abundance of organisms exhibiting complex life cycles, like marine invertebrates, reflect ecological processes operating at all stages in the life history. Few studies have yet considered the mortality patterns of larvae and juveniles. To test whether the permanent meiofauna play a role in macrofaunal larval site-selection, and/or if permanent meiofaunal predators or competitors and disturbers are a significant source of mortality for newly settled macrofaunal juveniles, a series of manipulations of meiofauna were performed. Densities of (1) predatory turbellarians alone, and (2) other meiofauna, were increased in small boxes placed on a holding table in a shallow subtidal habitat. Natural settlement into meiofauna manipulations was examined approximately monthly for a year. Other experiments were conducted to examine the relative importance of site-selection and post-settlement mortality and to determine if settlement was density-dependent or density-independent.
Densities of spionid, cirratulid, terebellid, capitellid, and maldanid polychaetes, oligochaetes, bivalves, and amphipods were all reduced by high densities of turbellarians, and sometimes by other meiofauna. Turbellarian predation was responsible for significant post-settlement mortality, but spionids, cirratulids, terebellids, and maldanids also appeared to avoid dense turbellarian treatments. Bivalve densities were reduced by high densities of other meiofauna, probably due to their sedimentary disturbance. Syllid polychaete densities were higher in turbellarian treatments, suggesting that they select for areas with high densities of their prey (small turbellarians). The effects of meiofauna on settlement and survival were greatest in spring and summer. The results of these experiments suggest larval settlement patterns and early juvenile survival should be considered in developing general models of life history and community structure for soft-sediment systems.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Larval settlement into marine soft-sediment systems: Interactions with the meiofauna|
|Series title||Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology|
|Contributing office(s)||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|