Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 589–597 | Cite as

Control of larval release in the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus: role of chemical cues

  • Tracy A. ZieglerEmail author
  • Richard B. Forward Jr
Research Article


The current model for larval release in subtidal crustaceans suggests that hatching time is controlled by the embryos, which release a pheromone that stimulates the parent female to undergo behaviors that synchronize larval release. Alternatively, hatching could be controlled by the females. Ovigerous spiny lobsters Panulirus argus (Latreille) exhibit stereotypic behaviors during larval release, including rapid abdominal extensions and pleopod-pumping activity. Ovigerous P. argus were collected from coral reefs in the Florida Keys, USA during the summers of 2005 and 2006. Pleopod-pumping activity was quantified to determine if a female’s pumping activity correlates with the developmental state of the embryos. The role of pheromones released by developing and hatching embryos in controlling pumping behaviors was tested by measuring the pumping response of ovigerous lobsters to (1) hatch water, (2) homogenized embryo water, (3) embryo-conditioned water (unhatched late-stage embryos soaked for 20 h), and (4) water containing homogenized post-hatch embryo cases. Bioassays were conducted under constant conditions (dim-red light) in the laboratory at random times during the day to control for any possible rhythm in pumping activity. Spontaneous pleopod-pumping activity increased significantly with increasing embryo development. Upon exposure to hatch water, ovigerous lobsters with late-stage embryos displayed increased pleopod pumping with increased treatment concentration. Water individually conditioned with homogenized late-stage embryos, intact late-stage embryos, and homogenized post-hatch embryo cases all induced larval release behaviors in females with late-stage embryos. Ovigerous females with early-stage embryos did not respond to water conditioned with homogenized early- or late-stage embryos. These results suggest that active substances are released by embryos at the time of hatching and induce the stereotypical pumping behaviors of the female that synchronizes larval release. The results support the model that larval release in subtidal crustaceans is controlled by pheromones released from hatching embryos.


Offshore Water Ovigerous Female Spiny Lobster Slack Water Larval Release 
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This material is based in part on research supported by the National Science Foundation grant number OCE-0221099 and ECOHAB grant number NA170P2725, with additional funding from the Oak Foundation. All research was conducted according to the conditions of the FFWCC Special Activities License #05SR-9340. We thank Lonny Anderson, Dr Peter Bouwma, Dr Michael Childress, Chris Humphrey, Jon Fajans, Todd Hitchins, Sean Kinane, Meredith Kintzing, Cynthia Lewis, Daniel Poland, and Adrianna Zito for support with spiny lobster collection and care. We also thank Dr Dan Rittschof for helpful suggestions with the design and analyses of these experiments. We declare that these experiments comply with the current laws of the USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke University Marine LaboratoryNicholas School of the Environment and Earth SciencesBeaufortUSA

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