Equipped with high-speed, high-resolution video, scientists have discovered important new information on how marine snail larvae swim, a key behavior that determines individual dispersal and ultimately, survival.
Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Stony Brook University grew Atlantic slipper limpet larvae, which are slightly larger than a grain of sand, and recorded microscopic video of them swimming. In previous studies, it has been commonly thought that larvae swim faster when they beat their hair-like cilia faster. However, this new microscopic video and research shows that this is not the case.
"I was actually quite surprised when I saw there was no relationship between cilia beat frequency and how fast they swim," says Karen Chan, a WHOI postdoctoral scholar and the lead author on the study, which was published today in PLOS ONE.
The larvae actually control how fast they swim by subtly shifting the position of their velar lobes flat, disc-shaped wings fringed with cilia. The ability to make small movements with their velar lobes, akin to how a bird adjusts the angle of its wings while soaring, exhibits a more complex neuromuscular control than previously thought.
The Atlantic slipper limpet (Crepidula fornicata) is a common marine snail native to the northeastern U.S. It has become an invasive nuisance elsewhere in the world competing with endemic species, particularly in Europe. Co-author Dianna Padilla from Stony Brook University's Department of Ecology and Evolution collected the abundant study species from the North Shore of Long Island, NY, for this research project.
"Collaborations between organismal biologists such as myself and oceanographers, who develop and use such clever technology, is helping us find answers to important questions that would otherwise be impossible," Padilla says. She grew the larvae in her lab, which were sent to WHOI for video analy
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution