Many marine youths look nothing like their adult forms, which makes it difficult
for scientists to identify the larvae. In some cases, larvae of different but related
species look so much alike that few, if any, biologists can tell them apart. Try your
hand at matching the larval creatures below (on the left) with their adult counter
parts (on the right). Answers can be found below the images, upside down.
A n s w ers: 1 C, gre e n cra b; 2 D, h e art urc hin; 3 A, s u nfis h; 4 B, starfis h
larvae may fulfill the dreams for going
forth and replenishing, but they may
end up so thinly distributed that typical
monitoring programs won’t notice any
uptick against naturally hiccuping population changes.
It’s the catastrophic natural variations
that interest Lauren Mullineaux of the
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
in Massachusetts, who studies larvae at
As underwater volcanoes, these
vents offer a nutrient-rich but precari-
ous home, where thriving communities
often disappear in a Pompeii minute.
They’re great spots for ecologists to
study how ecosystems rebuild after a
disaster, a process that all depends on
those traveling larvae.
Where, oh where have they gone?
Despite the importance of larval travel,
researchers are still figuring out where
in the world the youngsters go. Tracking has proved difficult, and researchers
have often made do with rules of thumb
for estimating travels.
In a heroic research effort about
a decade ago, scientists combined
information about water movements
around deep-sea vents with studies
of larval development done in chambers pressurized at 250 atmospheres
to simulate the deep ocean. The
study’s conclusion: The larvae of an
iconic Riftia tube worm probably settle