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Initial Evidence for the Transport of Teleplanic Larvae of Benthic Invertebrates across the East Pacific Barrier

Rudolf S. Scheltema
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 174, No. 2 (Apr., 1988), pp. 145-152
DOI: 10.2307/1541781
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1541781
Page Count: 8
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Initial Evidence for the Transport of Teleplanic Larvae of Benthic Invertebrates across the East Pacific Barrier
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Abstract

Since the mid-19th century biologists have considered the east tropical Pacific to be a barrier for the dispersal of coastal marine invertebrate species. More recently it has been maintained that this is so because planktonic larvae are unable to cross such a large expanse of ocean. Therefore, it seems extraordinary that no observations have been made to determine whether larvae of invertebrates are actually transported by the major currents of that region. Plankton samples in the present study show that invertebrate larvae do occur within the east tropical Pacific including, but not restricted to, those of gastropods, polychaetes, sipunculans, decapod crustacea, echinoderms, and coelenterates-though as a rule, their occurrence there is significantly less than within the central tropical Pacific. Data from larval distributions suggest that the east tropical Pacific may act as a substantial impediment to many invertebrate forms, but that it is not a complete barrier to dispersal. Accordingly, the region is best considered a filter. It allows only species with a potential for an exceptionally long larval life to pass i.e., those with teleplanic larvae, while it blocks other forms that are restricted to a shorter time in the plankton owing to an inability to delay metamorphosis or lack of an alternate mode of dispersal. The capacity for dispersal by planktonic larvae differs among the various taxa.

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