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Asexual reproduction by oceanic planktotrophic echinoderm larvae


Cloning among metazoan larvae is rare and generally restricted to a few phyla with parasitic or colonial life-histories. Echinoderms are all non-colonial animals, and although cloning is well docu-mented for some adults, its occurrence in larval stages has not been previously observed1–3. Here we describe a novel mode of cloning by fission in planktotrophic bipinnaria larvae of the sea star Luidia sp. from the Sargasso Sea and the Gulf Stream. Reproductive larvae were widely distributed, comprising about 30% of sample populations. This represents an extensive multi-plicative potential whereby the pelagic life of the genet is prolonged and the potential of recruitment into benthic adult populations can be enhanced.

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Bosch, I., Rivkin, R. & Alexander, S. Asexual reproduction by oceanic planktotrophic echinoderm larvae. Nature 337, 169–170 (1989).

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