Haliotis australis is a medium-size New Zealand abalone with aquaculture potential. H. australis can be readily ripened and spawned, but larval settlement has proved difficult. The current study addressed aspects of larval settlement (i.e., attachment and metamorphosis) in laboratory experiments and small-scale hatchery trials. Competence to metamorphose was first seen weakly in larvae at 8 days old at 14.5°C, but larval metamorphosis rates increased progressively up to at least 12 days of age. In laboratory experiments, larvae showed a dose-dependent response to dissolved γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), with settlement peaking at 1 µM (57% metamorphosis 4 days after settlement induction) and declining at higher and lower doses. Across a range of cues, metamorphosis was highest on crustose coralline algae (97 ± 4% metamorphosis after 4 days), intermediate on 1 µM GABA (55 ± 14%), and low on diatom films (<20%). GABA combined additively with diatom film to give strong metamorphosis (81 ± 6%). Metamorphosis induction by a diatom film was doubled if the film was pregrazed by juvenile H. australis (76% vs. 35%, P < 0.0001), but the grazing effect appeared to be species specific, because pregrazing by Haliotis iris had no effect (41% vs. 35%, P = 0.720). The species-specific response to trail mucus appears to preclude GABA as being the main inducer of metamorphosis in this case. On hatchery plates, settlement on pregrazed biofilms was approximately 4-fold higher when the plates were horizontal rather than vertical (41 % vs. 10% metamorphosis, P = 0.003). Settlement on ungrazed horizontal plates remained low even if those plates had been held in water with adult conspecifics, but without contacting the abalone. We conclude that tanks offering sloped or horizontal surfaces will be more effective than vertical plates for settlement of H. australis, and that pregrazed biofilms and/or GABA are promising settlement cues.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3