Larval dispersal : vent life in the water column
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Visually striking faunal communities of high abundance and biomass cluster around hydrothermal vents, but these animals don't spend all of their lives on the seafloor. Instead, they spend a portion of their lives as tiny larvae in the overlying water column. Dispersal of larvae among vent sites is critical for population maintenance, colonization of new vents, and recolonization of disturbed vents. Historically, studying larvae has been challenging, especially in the deep sea. Advances in the last decade in larval culturing technologies and more integrated, interdisciplinary time-series observations are providing new insights into how hydrothermal vent animals use the water column to maintain their populations across ephemeral and disjunct habitats. Larval physiology and development are often constrained by evolutionary history, resulting in larvae using a diverse set of dispersal strategies to interact with the surrounding currents at different depths. These complex biological and oceanographic interactions translate the reproductive output of adults in vent communities into a dynamic supply of settling larvae from sources near and far.
Author Posting. © The Oceanography Society, 2012. This article is posted here by permission of The Oceanography Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Oceanography 25, no. 1 (2012): 256–268, doi:10.5670/oceanog.2012.24.