Larval dispersal and settlement mechanisms in the first genome-enabled Australian marine animal, Amphimedon queenslandica (Porifera) (2011–2013)
The oceans teem with millions of microscopic animals. Many of these are the larvae of well-known creatures that cannot move much, if at all, as adults. These planktonic larvae are swept around by tides and currents until they are old enough to settle onto the seafloor and metamorphose into the adult form. Within a species, larvae individually vary in the age at which they settle, and in their choice of settlement site. Theory tells us that this variation is crucial to the genetic structure and evolutionary trajectory of marine populations, but empirically we know almost nothing about it. This project combines settlement ecology with genomics, to reveal how variation in genes gives sponge larvae their idiosyncratic dispersal behaviours.