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Reproduction and growth of the deep sea brittle star ophiura ljungmani



Reproduction and growth of the deep sea brittle star ophiura ljungmani



Oceanologica Acta 3(2): 177-186



Reproductive biology and population dynamics of O. ljungmani were studied by measuring disk diameters and by examining oocyte size-frequencies and fecundity from a sequential seasonal series of large samples from a 2900 m deep Permanent Station in the Rockall Trough (northeast Atlantic). Egg size (maximum 90 .mu.m) and fecundity (up to 57,000 eggs/individual) suggests indirect planktotrophic development, while a clear annual cycle in gametogenesis, with probably synchronous spawning in Jan.-Feb., confirms a marked seasonality that is also seen as an annual, summertime set of postlarvae on to the bottom. Analysis of size structure of the population indicates annually discrete year classes with a maximum longevity of around 10 yr. Individuals show fastest growth and lowest survivorship as postlarvae with a higher survivorship and lower growth rate of about 1 mm .cntdot. yr-1 among sizes > 1.5 mm. Reproductive maturity is reached in the 3rd yr at 3.5-4.0 mm with individuals thereafter probably reproducing annually. Possible factors controlling the annual cycle in the supposedly seasonless deep sea are discussed in relation to the possible significance of a likely seasonal pattern in downward flux of organic particles derived from surface production.

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