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Adrift! The secret life of rock lobster larvae

Beckley, L.E. (2013) Adrift! The secret life of rock lobster larvae. In: 3rd Biennial “South West Marine Conference”, 9 May, Bunker Bay, Western Australia.


The dramatic decline in the settlement of puerulus of the rock lobster (Panulirus cygnus) along the coast of Western Australia over the past six years has led to major changes in the management of the fishery. It has also prompted several research projects including a multi-institutional study of the biological oceanography of the planktonic phyllosoma larval stages. The phyllosoma stages precede metamorphosis into the puerulus and, during this period of almost a year spent drifting in the SE Indian Ocean pelagic ecosystem, the poorly understood phyllosoma larvae are subject to a wide range of oceanographic conditions. Using a surface net at night, phyllosoma larvae were captured for feeding experiments conducted at sea aboard the research vessel RV Southern Surveyor. The experiments showed that the phyllosoma (mid-late stages) are fussy feeders preferentially selecting arrow worms (Chaetognatha) from the offered variety of planktonic prey items. Intriguingly, a high-throughput amplicon sequencing approach on DNA obtained from the contents of the gut of wild-caught phyllosoma also indicated the presence of colonial radiolarians in the diet. An extensive survey of the prey field from the coast out to 400 km offshore between 28°and 32°S was also conducted. The water masses in this area comprised both Leeuwin Current Water and Subtropical Surface Water. The importance of links between the oceanographically-driven prey field and phyllosoma nutritional state in the oligotrophic SE Indian Ocean are currently being investigated.

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