College of Science and Mathematics
Biological Sciences Department
BS in Biological Sciences
Crow White, Dean Wendt
It has long been understood that the larval life stage is responsible for the dispersion of many marine organisms across their biogeographic range. Such organisms have a bipartite life cycle, existing in the water column and subject to oceanographic processes as planktonic larvae before settling to suitable habitat along the benthos where they grow and mature. Previous studies have demonstrated that larval growth rate and behavior in the water column can alter larval position in relation to ocean currents and affects their dispersal pathway. However, there is a paucity of information regarding the growth rate of the earliest larval stage for organisms whose larvae first exist in protective, benthic capsules. In this study, I observed the reproductive process, oviposition, and intra-capsular larval development and growth of an ecologically and economically important marine snail, the Kellet’s whelk (Kelletia kelletii). I observed an abnormally long incubation period for the egg capsules that challenges previous studies, and I found that the Gompertz and Gaussian models of growth best fit the larval whelks’ growth. My results can be used to refine dispersion models guiding the management of the Kellet’s whelk fishery, and provide a window of insight into the biological mechanisms that facilitate marine population connectivity.