Rhythmic egg-release in Littorina littorea (Mollusca: Gastropoda)



Batches of female Littorina littorea from four estuarine sites were kept in aquaria throughout their breeding season (December to July), some permanently submerged in circulating sea-water and others in a regime of simulated semi-diurnal tides of constant small amplitude. Females without the tidal experience released few eggs with little relation to the lunar month. Those in the tidal regime released more than four times the total number of eggs and released far more in periods of new and full moon than in periods of half-moon. Over the whole season, release was 1–5–3–25 times faster (at different sites) during full and new moon but the difference was more accentuated at the height of the season in February to early March and in early May. While individual females differed considerably and there were minor variations between the four sites, it is concluded that a two-weekly rhythm relates egg release to the spring-neap tide cycle and that this rhythm requires a tidal cycle of immersion and emersion for its maintenance. The special significance of such a rhythm for a species with pelagic eggs and larvae in an estuary is discussed.