Larval Release Rhythms and Larval Behavior of Palinurid Lobsters: a Comparative Study

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This dissertation investigated larval release and larval behavior of the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus and the spotted spiny lobster P. guttatus. These species were examined under laboratory conditions to determine the phase relationship between larval release and natural environmental cycles. P. argus displayed a nocturnal tidal rhythm, while P. guttatus displayed a circadian rhythm in larval release. P. argus releases larvae near the time of nocturnal high slack water, while P. guttatus released larvae near the time of sunrise. The role of 'pumping pheromones' in controlling larval release behaviors was tested by measuring the pumping response of ovigerous P. argus to (1) hatch water, (2) homogenized-embryo water, (3) embryo-conditioned water, and (4) water containing homogenized-egg cases. Lobsters with late-stage embryos displayed increased pleopod pumping with increased concentration of hatch water. Water individually conditioned with homogenized late-stage embryos, intact late-stage embryos, and homogenized egg-cases induced pumping activity in females with late-stage embryos, indicating the presence of a chemical cue. I quantified pumping responses upon exposure to synthetic peptides to determine if they mimicked pheromones that induce larval release behaviors. Pumping behavior was evoked by oligopeptides with a basic amino acid at the carboxy-terminus, preceded by several neutral amino acids. Carboxyl-terminal arginine peptides serve as pheromone mimics. I investigated whether these peptides originate from the action of trypsin-like enzymes by conducting a bioassay measuring pumping activity of ovigerous P. argus subjected to increasing concentrations of trypsin, trypsin inhibitor, and a combination of the two. Pumping activity increased with increasing concentrations of trypsin and trypsin inhibitor, while behaviors ceased when ovigerous females were subjected to a complex of the two. Pheromones are generated by trypsin-like enzymes assisting in the degradation of the egg membranes at the time of hatching. Vertical swimming behaviors of stage-I phyllosoma larvae of P. argus and P. guttatus were observed under laboratory conditions. P. argus larvae displayed a pattern of twilight vertical migration, while P. guttatus larvae displayed nocturnal diel vertical migration (DVM). Rhythms persisted for 5-6 cycles under constant conditions, indicating that an endogenous rhythm in activity plays a proximate role in DVM for both species.






Ziegler, Tracy Ann (2007). Larval Release Rhythms and Larval Behavior of Palinurid Lobsters: a Comparative Study. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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