, Volume 137, Issue 4, pp 623-630

Reproduction, dispersal and settlement of the bathyal ophiuroid Ophiocten gracilis in the NE Atlantic Ocean

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Ophiocten gracilis is an ophiuroid found at bathyal depths in the North Atlantic Ocean. The adults show strong seasonal reproduction, with an ophiopluteus in the surface plankton. Settling postlarvae were collected in sediment traps moored at 1000 and 1400 m depth in the NE Atlantic during Julian Days 142 to 212 (May to July) in 1996. During this period, growth of postlarvae in the traps was linear and the diet consisted of phytodetritus and foraminifera. Experiments suggest that postlarvae sink at rates of up to 500 m d−1, although this may well be slower in the natural environment. The high fecundity, seasonality and high population density resulted in high fertilization success, and many of the offspring were advected outside the normal adult range, where they were able to settle but did not survive to adulthood.