Dr. Mimi Koehl, University of California Berkeley
Abstract: Many bottom-dwelling marine animals produce microscopic larvae that are dispersed to new sites by ambient water currents. How do these larvae manage to land in suitable habitats? We have been doing field and laboratory studies of how dissolved chemical cues released by organisms on the substratum are dispersed in turbulent wave-driven water flow, and how small weakly-swimming animals can respond to those odors in ways that affect where they land and can stay put. We are addressing this question using larvae of the Hawaiian sea slug, Phestilla sibogae, which must settle on reefs where their prey, the coral Porites compressa, is abundant. This system allows us to address the more general question of how the locomotion of microscopic organisms swimming or moving across the substratum is affected by turbulent ambient currents and waves in marine habitats.