Evol Ecol Res 7: 183-201 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Influences of habitat distribution and maternal investment on settlement of lecithotrophic larvae: modelling an ecological transition

Adam M. Reitzel* and Brandon R. Chockley

Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8525, USA

Address all correspondence to Adam M. Reitzel, Department of Biology, Boston University, 5 Cummington Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
e-mail: reitzel@bu.edu


Life-history models to investigate the larva–juvenile transition in benthic invertebrates have primarily been static models that focus on the larval portion of the process. Here we develop a dynamic optimization model to quantify the roles of (1) habitat quality, (2) habitat distribution and (3) maternal investment in the successful settlement of hypothetical lecithotrophic marine invertebrate larvae. In particular, we focused on the roles of these variables in the proportion of larvae settling successfully, their post-settlement state, and their post-settlement fitness (state plus habitat settled in). We evaluated the fitness consequences of larvae making one of two decisions: (1) searching for ‘better habitats’ and thus staying pelagic in order to settle at a later time, or (2) settling to the benthos and acquiring some measure of future fitness, pending successful settlement. Our results suggest that habitat distributions have a substantial impact on the proportion and state of larvae that settle to specific habitat qualities (and thus fitness) but little impact on the total number of larvae that settle. Maternal investment had the strongest positive effect on post-settlement state where more maternal investment generally resulted in more energy-rich settlers. Increases in maternal investment above the initial minimum resulted in diminishing returns in terms of successful larval settlement or the distribution of settlers in better habitat qualities. We discuss our results in light of the current debate on marine reserve designs.

Keywords: dynamic optimization, habitat distribution, habitat quality, lecithotrophic larva, maternal investment, settlement.

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