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Marine tubeworms need nudge to transition from larvae state

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Posted January 10, 2014
Marine tubeworms need nudge to transition from larvae state
Larvae of the marine tubeworm Hydroides elegans, a significant biofouling agent, require contact with surface-bound bacteria to undergo metamorphosis. Credit: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kewalo Marine Laboratory
A common problem at Pearl Harbor, biofouling affects harbors around the world. It’s the process by which barnacles, muscles, oysters, and tubeworms accumulate on the bottom of boats and other surfaces. Now researchers at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory have discovered a biological trigger behind the buildup.

Crusty marine creatures begin life as miniscule larvae floating in the open ocean, says Michael Hadfield, a Professor of Biology. But before the larvae settle on a surface and start to grow, they need a bacterial cue to initiate metamorphosis.

“The critical issue is how they find the right spot to make that transformation: the right place where food will be available and where there will be others of the species with which to reproduce,” Hadfield said. “The success of the species depends on the larvae settling in on exactly the right spot.”

Or the wrong spot, depending on who you’re talking to. The U.S. Navy, commercial cargo shippers, and many private boat owners would like to find a way to stop biofouling before it starts. A surface layer of barnacles or other marine life slows down boats and increases the amount of fuel it takes to move them through the water.

Read more at: Phys.org

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