Larval settlement and juvenile development of sea anemones that provide habitat for anemonefish

Research paper by Anna Scott, Peter L. Harrison

Indexed on: 15 Apr '08Published on: 15 Apr '08Published in: Marine Biology


Sea anemones that host obligate symbiotic anemonefish are ecologically important throughout many coral reef regions of the Indo-Pacific. This study provides the first quantitative data on larval settlement rates and juvenile development of two species of host sea anemone, Heteractis crispa and Entacmaea quadricolor. Larvae were reared from broadcast spawned gametes of sexually reproductive male and female anemones collected from the Solitary Islands Marine Park, NSW, Australia. Prior to the start of the experiments, H. crispa larvae were reared for 3 days after spawning in March 2004 and E. quadricolor larvae were reared for 4 days after spawning in February 2005. Larval settlement onto biologically conditioned terracotta tiles in outdoor flow-through seawater aquaria was first recorded 4 days after spawning for H. crispa and 5 days after spawning for E. quadricolor. Peak settlement occurred 10 days after spawning, with a mean of 33.4 and 50.3% of the original groups of 350 larvae in replicate tanks settling for H. crispa and E. quadricolor, respectively. Tentacles arose as outpocketings of the oral region, at first appearing as small rounded buds. These buds elongated to form long, thin, tapering tentacles in H. crispa, whereas E. quadricolor tentacles had slight bulbs below the tips. Juvenile anemones, especially H. crispa, were found to have very different colouration and markings when compared with adult anemones, and therefore the descriptions and images provided here will enable correct identification of juvenile recruits.