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Current Lab Activities

Much of our work concerns the marine gastropod Crepidula fornicata, and not just because the animal has such a great name. We can get larvae pretty much the entire year and rear them to metamorphosis with very low mortality (typically less than 5%). The larvae are large at hatching (about 450 µm) and grow as fast as 100 µm per day. Also, we can now control when the larvae metamorphose and can rear the juveniles to reproductive maturity within 1-2 months. The snail is native to New England but has now become an important invasive species in many other parts of the world. Some of our work also includes the related species, C. convexa, which has apparently lost the larval stage during its evolution.

Graduate student Casey Diederich has been working with the marine gastropod Crepidula fornicata in both the field and laboratory to study the costs and adaptations associated with intertidal life. Graduate student Robert Burns and I, along with several undergraduates, have been investigating the effects of ocean acidification on Crepidula development, working at the Friday Harbor Laboratories in Washington state during the summer.

We also work with the pollution-indicating polychaete worm, Capitella teleta. Graduate student Robert Burns is trying to understand how metamorphosis is controlled in this animal. Like Crepidula, Capitella is a great animal to work with at Tufts: it eats mud and is easy to keep in the lab, the larvae don't need to be fed and are competent to metamorphose within minutes of hatching, and the entire life cycle takes only about 3 weeks, egg to egg. Robert is conducting parallel studies with the larvae of Crepidula fornicata.

Periodically we also monitor the shell quality of hermit crabs in a local field population (Nahant, MA), as a way of assessing the effects of climate change on coastal communities. Graduate student Sarah Gilliand is studying the potential impact of climate change on hermit crab shell selection behavior.

Download the Larval Mortality Model.

We also continue to study aspects of shell selection behavior in marine hermit crabs. Read about the hermit crab work and watch the hermit crab video.

Video of a young Crepidula fornicata larva in action - A single larva of the marine snail Crepidula fornicata. This larva was about 2 days old, with a shell length of about 500 microns. You can see the ciliated velum, which is used for swimming, food collection, and gas exchange, the beating heart, and food particles (phytoplankton) swirling around in the larva's stomach.