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Free Content Lunar Control of Epitokal Swarming in the Polychaete Platynereis Bicanaliculata (Baird) from Central California

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Lunar control of epitokal swarming in the polychaete Platynereis bicanaliculata (Baird) was tested in laboratory experiments employing artificial moonlight. Worms were exposed to the following daylength and lunar conditions: A) in-phase daylengths with: i) artificial moonlight for 6-7 nights/month centered near ambient full moon, ii) centered near ambient new moon, and iii) constant “moonlight”, and B) in phase daylengths with: i) artificial moonlight for 14 nights/month during the period of ambient full moon, ii) centered near ambient new moon, and iii) constant “moonlight.” Worms exposed to artificial moonlight for 6–7 nights in phase with full moon swarmed only on “moonless” nights. Those exposed to “moonlight” out of phase with full moon showed field entrainment (swarming during the period of ambient new moon) for the first month, then swarming mainly on “moonless” nights. The pattern of swarming of worms held under continuous “moonlight” suggests a possible circa-semi-lunar rhythm. Exposure to 14 nights (during ambient full moon and new moon) of “moonlight” resulted in entrainment for the first 2 months, followed by a 1-month period of “adjustment” or “clock re-setting” to the imposed pattern of artificial moonlight, thereafter, a pattern of swarming mainly on “moonless” nights. These results suggest that individuals of P. bicanaliculata have an endogenous rhythm entrained by moonlight which is manifested in a circa-lunar swarming rhythm, and the gradual decline in illumination from full moon to last quarter moon is probably the cue that synchronizes swarming at the population level. This is the first experimental evidence of lunar-synchronized reproductive rhythm in a marine invertebrate from the west coast of North America.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 1993

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  • 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.
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