• Crisp’s Rule;
  • environmental control;
  • Orton’s Rule;
  • reproductive phenology


Coordination of gametogenesis and spawning during restricted breeding seasons increases availability of mates, fertilization rates, and often success of offspring. Orton’s Rule predicts water temperature as the dominant environmental cue for gametogenesis or spawning in temperate invertebrates. Crisp’s Rule predicts that species producing planktotrophic larvae will time their reproduction to ensure optimal nutrition for the larvae. Owenia collaris (Annelida: Oweniidae) is a temperate polychaete that produces planktotrophic larvae that remain in the water column for several weeks. Reproductive phenology and its relationship to the environment were investigated in an estuarine population of O. collaris using field and laboratory studies. Owenia collaris produced mature gametes between March and September each year during the productive season between the spring and fall transitions when day lengths were 12 h or more, alkalinity was 8.1 or higher, and temperature was 11 °C or higher. Gamete production was not related to seasonal changes in salinity or benthic phytoplankton concentrations and gametes were present prior to the spring phytoplankton bloom. In laboratory experiments, production of gametes was influenced somewhat by manipulating day lengths but not adult food. The association with predictable and stable environmental cycles (day length) and a broad spawning season suggest that this species is unlikely to mis-match with larval food availability which would lead to reduced availability of recruits in any given year, supporting Crisp’s Rule. Our data do not support the hypothesis that reproductive timing in this species is driven by access to excess energy required by adults to initiate the production of gametes. Our data also do not support Orton’s premise that temperature is the primary controlling factor of reproduction in this temperate marine invertebrate.