Larval growth, development, and survival of laboratory-reared Aplysia californica: Effects of diet and veliger density

Thomas R. Capo, Ana T. Bardales, Phillip R. Gillette, Monica R. Lara, Michael C. Schmale, Joseph E. Serafy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Over the last three decades, the California sea hare, Aplysia californica, has played an increasingly important role as a model organism in the neurosciences. Since 1995, the National Resource for Aplysia has supported a growing research community by providing a consistent supply of laboratory-reared individuals of known age, reproductive status, and environmental history. The purpose of the present study was to resolve the key biological factors necessary for successful culture of large numbers of high quality larval Aplysia. Data from a sequence of five experiments demonstrated that algal diet, food concentration, and veliger density significantly affected growth, attainment of metamorphic competency, and survival of Aplysia larvae. The highest growth and survival were achieved with a mixed algal diet of 1:1 Isochrysis sp (TISO) and Chaetoceros muelleri (CHGRA) at a total concentration of 250 × 103 cells/mL and a larval density of 0.5-1.0 per mL. Rapid growth was always correlated with faster attainment of developmental milestones and increased survival, indicating that the more rapidly growing larvae were healthier. Trials conducted with our improved protocol resulted in larval growth rates of > 14 μm/day, which yielded metamorphically competent animals within 21 days with survival rates in excess of 90%. These data indicate the important effects of biotic factors on the critical larval growth period in the laboratory and show the advantages of developing optimized protocols for culture of such marine invertebrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - C Toxicology and Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Aplysia californica
  • Density
  • Development
  • Diet
  • Growth
  • Survival
  • Veliger larvae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


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