Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal of Plankton Research





First Page


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We investigated the dispersal of larvae of benthic invertebrates and tested the hypothesis that larvae behaved as if they were passive particles. Observations were made off Duck, North Carolina, USA diving a period of wind driven downwelling at the coast and an intrusion of estuarine water from the Chesapeake Bay. The plume of estuarine water (salinity < 30 psu) was strongest at the shoreward stations in the more northern transects. Wind driven shoreward surface flow, converged at the seaward edge of the plume and downwelled. Offshore flow was present below the thermocline and caused the thermocline to bend downward and contact the bottom at between 5 and 10 km offshore. In the zooplankton samples, we enumerated 33 taxa of larvae (17 taxa of bivalve veligers, 10 taxa of gastropod veligers, and 6 taxa of polychaete larvae). Using cluster analysis, larvae were separated into groups with similar patterns of distribution. If larvae were acting as passive particles then we hypothesized that: 1) Their distribution should remain tied to a water mass and 2) around a convergence or divergence, there should be no change in larval concentration. The distributions of larvae in Clusters 1, 4, 5, and 6 were consistent with the hypothesis that thy were acting as passive particles. Larvae in Clusters 2 and 3, however, did not appear to be acting as passive particles. Larvae in Cluster 2 did not remain tied to a water mass. They entered the study area in the estuarine plume waters, but within 20 km they were nearly absent from the plume water and were found seaward of the plume and at greater depth. Larvae in Cluster 3 were most abundant in areas of converging currents where the shoreward flowing surface waters downwelled at the plume front or against the shore. We hypothesized that larvae of organisms which as adults live in the intertidal or shallow, subtidal zones would have more nearshore distributions than the larvae of adults that are broadly distributed across the shelf. We compared the depth of the habitat of the adult bivalves from which the bivalve larvae in the different clusters were derived. The results were consistent with the hypothesis; larvae with distributions closer to shore tended to come from adults found at shallower depths or in the intertidal zone.