Round Up: Benthic Ecology Meeting Day 3

Time for just a quick (albeit late) update on day 3 of the Benthic Ecology Meeting. The meeting wrapped up on Saturday and there were plenty of fantastic talks to finish the meeting on a high.

Cannibalising sea stars: Even though sea stars are often the poster child for marine science (just check out the 42nd Benthic Ecology Meeting logo), it appears they have a dark side too. Janie Wulff has researched this behaviour in Oreaster sea stars. These sea stars eat coral reef sponges and don’t really like seagrass sponges. However, they if they forage on the coral reef, they are more likely to get eaten by fish. So, due to the lack of good sponges in the seagrass, the seastars resort to eating each other. It seems they live by the motto “Eat or be Eaten”.

What unites snapping shrimp, naked moles and termites? It turns out they all have a similar social structure. All these animals are eusocial which means that they have cooperative brood care, division of labour and overlapping generations (think of bees and ants). But how does this occur? Solomon Chak showed that in snapping shrimp it is based on colonies of mostly males and a few immature females (like in naked moles and termites). This lets the queen dominate and produce all the young.

Quick results:

  • Not all urchins have fish predators, therefore overfishing may not influence urchin barrens of these species (Jon Witman).
  • Increased water temperatures can increase asexual (without sex) reproduction in an invasive anemone (Megan Flenniken).
  • Asterias forbesi, a seastar, produces both small and large eggs. Larvae from the small eggs take longer to develop but the female can produce more small larvae than large (Holly Blackburn).

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