Larval development of the featherstar Aporometra wilsoni (Echinodermata: Crinoidea)



Abstract. Larval development of a small ovoviviparous comatulid crinoid, Aporometra wilsoni, was investigated using a population from South Australia. The genital pinnules of reproductive females each contain an ovary, within which are oocytes of various stages. Generally, one or more developing larvae lie outside the ovary, but within each pinnule. Larvae pass through “uniformly ciliated” and doliolaria stages before they exit the pinnule via the genital pore. The doliolariae lack the usual ciliary bands and are unable to swim. Doliolariae dissected from pinnules were followed through metamorphosis to the cystidean stage until the pentacrinoid larval stage. While previous reports on Aporometra have noted pentacrinoids attached to the female, virtually no pentacrinoids were found attached to any of the hundreds of adult females observed during this study. Females sampled from the mid-reproductive season (September and October) were found to bear >2500 developing eggs and larvae at a time. It appears that emerging doliolariae fall from the female and attach to other substrates to complete development. Aporometra is classified in Notocrinida with the Antarctic crinoid Notocrinus. This classification is based in part on their supposedly homologous larval brooding. However, the reproductive mechanism in A. wilsoni is quite different from Notocrinus, calling into question their current status as sister taxa.