Sponge larval settlement cues: the role of microbial biofilms in a warming ocean

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Whalan, S & Webster, NS 2014, 'Sponge larval settlement cues: the role of microbial biofilms in a warming ocean', Scientific Reports, vol. 4.

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Microbial biofilms play important roles in initiating settlement of marine invertebrate larvae. Given the importance of habitat selection by the motile larval phase, understanding settlement choices is critical if we are to successfully predict the population dynamics of sessile adults. Marine microbial biofilms show remarkable variability in community composition, often mediated by environmental conditions and biofilm age. To determine if biofilm communities were influenced by the time allowed to establish (age) and/ or seawater temperature, we manipulated experimental surfaces to firstly determine biofilm community composition and secondly test larval settlement responses for the abundant coral reef sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile. Microbial profiling of biofilms revealed different communities according to both age and temperature. Biofilm community composition, as a result of both elevated seawater temperature and biofilm age, contributed to settlement for sponge larvae with markedly higher numbers of larvae settling to biofilms developed over longer periods (10 d) and at temperatures 2–66C above ambient.

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