Nurse egg consumption and intracapsular development in the common whelk Buccinum undatum (Linnaeus 1758)

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Intracapsular development is common in marine gastropods. In many species, embryos develop alongside nurse eggs, which provide nutrition during ontogeny. The common whelk Buccinum undatum is a commercially important North Atlantic shallow-water gastropod. Development is intracapsular in this species, with individuals hatching as crawling juveniles. While its reproductive cycle has been well documented, further work is necessary to provide a complete description of encapsulated development. Here, using B. undatum egg masses from the south coast of England intracapsular development at 6 °C is described. Number of eggs, veligers and juveniles per capsule are compared, and nurse egg partitioning, timing of nurse egg consumption and intracapsular size differences through development are discussed. Total development took between 133 and 140 days, over which 7 ontogenetic stages were identified. The number of both eggs and veligers were significantly related to capsule volume, with approximately 1 % of eggs developing per capsule. Each early veliger consumed nurse eggs rapidly over just 3-7 days. Within each capsule, initial development was asynchronous, but it became synchronous during the veliger stage. No evidence for cannibalism was found during development, but large size differences between embryos developing within each capsule were observed, and occasionally 'empty' veligers were seen, which had not successfully consumed any nurse eggs. These results indicate a high level of competition for nurse eggs within each capsule during development in the common whelk. The initial differences observed in nurse egg uptake may affect individual predisposition in later life. © 2012 Springer-Verlag and AWI.




Smith, K. E., & Thatje, S. (2013). Nurse egg consumption and intracapsular development in the common whelk Buccinum undatum (Linnaeus 1758). Helgoland Marine Research, 67(1), 109–120.

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