Morphogenesis and phenotypic divergence in two developmental morphs of Streblospio benedicti (Annelida, Spionidae)



Abstract. The morphology of marine invertebrate larvae is strongly correlated with egg size and larval feeding mode. Planktotrophic larvae typically have suites of morphological traits that support a planktonic, feeding life style, while lecithotrophic larvae often have larger, yolkier bodies, and in some cases, a reduced expression of larval traits. Poecilogonous species provide interesting cases for the analysis of early morphogenesis, as two morphs of larvae are produced by a single species. We compared morphogenesis in planktotrophic and lecithotrophic morphs of the poecilogonous annelid Streblospio benedicti from the trochophore stage through metamorphosis, using observations of individuals that were observed alive, with scanning electron microscopy, or in serial sections. Offspring of alternate developmental morphs of this species are well known to have divergent morphologies in terms of size, yolk content, and the presence of larval bristles. We found that some phenotypic differences between morphs occur as traits that are present in only one morph (e.g., larval bristles, bacillary cells on the prostomium and pygidium), but that much of the phenotypic divergence is based on heterochronic changes in the differentiation of shared traits (e.g., gut and coelom). Tissue and organ development are compared in both morphs in terms of their structure and ontogenetic change throughout early development and metamorphosis.