Do cues matter? highly inductive settlement cues don't ensure high post-settlement survival in sea urchin aquaculture

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Mos, B, Cowden, KL, Nielsen, SJ & Dworjanyn, SA 2011, 'Do cues matter? highly inductive settlement cues don't ensure high post-settlement survival in sea urchin aquaculture', PLoS One, vol. 6, no. 12, p. e28054.

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Increasing settlement and post-settlement survival during the critical transition from planktonic larvae to benthic juveniles will increase efficiency for sea urchin aquaculture. This study investigated the effects of temperature and settlement cues on the settlement and post-settlement survival of the sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla during this phase. The current commercial methodology, which utilises natural biofilm settlement plates, was tested and resulted in low settlement (Sargassum linearifolium and Corallina officinalis, and seawater conditioned with these algae, induced significantly higher settlement (>90%) than a natural biofilm (~25%). The addition of macroalgae-conditioned seawater to natural biofilm significantly increased settlement rates (>85%). Mixed consortia and single strains of bacteria isolated from macroalgae, biofilms and adult conspecifics all induced significant settlement, but at significantly lower rates than macroalgae. No evidence was found that higher rates of settlement to bacteria on macroalgae were generated by a cofactor from the macroalgae. Age of bacterial cultures, culturing bacteria on solid and liquid media and concentration of nutrients in cultures had little effect on settlement rates. Finally, macroalgae-conditioned seawater combined with natural biofilm settlement plates induced significantly higher settlement than to the biofilm plates alone in a commercial scale trial. However, high post-settlement mortality resulted in equivalent survival between treatments after 25 days. This study highlights that settlement studies should extend to post-settlement survival, which remains poor for T. gratilla and is a significant obstacle to increasing efficiency for aquaculture.