Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Dean E. Wendt


Bugula neritina is a sessile marine bryozoan with a pelagic larval stage. Larvae frequently settle on boat hulls, facilitating the introduction of B. neritina to bays and estuaries worldwide. Adrenergic agonists, such as the vertebrate hormone noradrenaline, inhibit larval settlement in a variety of marine invertebrate species, including B. neritina. Light also inhibits B. neritina larval settlement, yet the underlying mechanisms by which light and adrenergic compounds exert their effects on larvae are not well understood. Octopamine is considered the invertebrate analog of noradrenaline, and may be an endogenous hormone involved in larval settlement pathways. I observed the effects of the adrenergic agonist noradrenaline and the adrenergic antagonist phentolamine on larval settlement, and found that high concentrations of noradrenaline increased larval mortality, inhibited larval attachment, and increased larval swimming behavior. High concentrations of phentolamine also increased larval mortality, but increased larval attachment and decreased larval swimming behavior. I used fluorescent labeling and microscopy to localize sensory system components, and found that larvae possess adrenergic-like receptors, as well as tyrosine hydroxylase-like and octopamine-like immunoreactivity. I also exposed larvae to phentolamine in both dark and light conditions, and found that light significantly inhibited larval attachment, but phentolamine blocked those inhibitory effects. These results suggest that B. neritina larvae possess adrenergic-like receptors, which serve as the binding sites for noradrenaline and phentolamine. These are likely octopamine receptors, and octopamine may be one endogenous compound involved in controlling larval phototaxis and settlement behavior. Light may increase octopamine production, thereby stimulating cilial activity, extending swimming behavior, and preventing larvae from attaching to a substrate. This research sheds light on previously unknown sensory mechanisms in B. neritina larvae, and may aid in the development of new biofouling control strategies.