Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Mark J. Butler, IV

Committee Member

Daniel M. Dauer

Committee Member

John R. McConaugha

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.B46 G55 2007


The onshore transport of meroplanktonic marine larvae or postlarvae is often complex, involving both active (i.e., behavior, swimming) and passive (i.e., oceanographic elements) transport mechanisms. Behaviors that modify passive transport have presumably evolved to situate larvae in settlement habitats where survival is enhanced. Active transport mechanisms have not been described for the puerulus postlarvae of any species of spiny lobster, despite their extraordinary mobility and known preference for specific settlement habitats. In the Florida Keys, for example, Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) pueruli travel from oceanic waters into coastal areas where they settle within bushy, red macroalgae. I conducted a series of laboratory experiments to examine puerulus orientation, settlement, and metamorphosis in response to cues characteristic of the nearshore nursery environment. Results from ≈ 270 trials testing puerulus choice of water sources in a custom acrylic choice tube indicate that pueruli are attracted to coastal water and the metabolites of red macroalgae (Larencia spp.) compared to oceanic water and artificial seawater treatments. Postlarvae are not attracted to waterborne cues from seagrass, and are repelled by hyper- or hypo-saline water. Postlarvae incubated in bay water or artificial seawater containing macroalgal metabolites metamorphosed about 2 days earlier (20 - 30% faster) than those exposed to artificial seawater. I used a pressurized test chamber to determine that pueruli settled under pressures simulating shallow depths (Laurencia spp. Pueruli swam up into the water column when subjected to higher pressures that simulated depths of ≈ l0 - 15 m. Combined, these results highlight the role that chemical and pressure cues play in altering the behavior and metamorphosis of postlarval spiny lobsters during onshore transport and settlement.


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