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Coralline algal crusts and the neurotransmitter GABA induce Haliotis rufescens larvae to settle and metamorphose. In this study, immediate changes in larval behavior were examined in response to brief (minutes) exposure to GABA. These immediate behavioral changes consisted of
foot exploration and the cessation of larval swimming, two components of settlement behavior. The responses of pre-competent and competent larvae to settlement cues were measured using intracellular recordings of the ciliated cells of the larval swimming organ, as well as video analyses of
behavior. The larval responses to GABA appear to be mediated by cells other than those of the velum (the larval swimming organ) although these cells have not yet been conclusively eliminated as chemoreceptive sites. Both pre-competent and competent larvae responded to GABA in a similar manner,
with respect to swimming behavior. The responses of larvae to brief exposures were then compared with the long term (days) effects of GABA on settlement behavior and developmental metamorphosis. Larvae became increasingly sensitive to GABA as they developed, in terms of both their immediate
and long term responses. The sensitivity shifts of both long and short term behaviors occurred with parallel time courses, indicating that the rapid GABA-triggered change in larval swimming and foot exploration behavior may represent the initial phase of chemical induction of settlement and
metamorphosis. Furthermore, this increase in larval sensitivity to GABA may delineate the attainment of metamorphic competency, an event that occurs well after the time the larva is competent to settle.
The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.