Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Research Article

Seasonal reproductive activity in the pterobranch hemichordate Rhabdopleura compacta

Atsuko Satoa1 c1

a1 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 4JD UK and Marine Biological Association of the UK, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, PL1 2PB UK


Pterobranchs are small marine filter feeders in the phylum Hemichordata. Their phylogenetic position and anatomical structure has resulted in pterobranchs featuring in many scenarios concerning the evolution of chordates. Despite this interest, the basic reproductive biology of pterobranchs is still poorly known. To address this issue, the reproductive season of Rhabdopleura compacta was investigated by collecting specimens in 2004–2007 from a population growing on disarticulated bivalve shells off the south coast of Devon, UK. I analysed reproductive status by categorizing shells according to the condition of the colonies growing on them. The frequency of shells having mature females was almost constant from spring to autumn among shells with active colonies. However, it was apparent that: (a) shells having mature females were more likely to be incubating embryos or larvae in June and July than other months; and (b) the production of embryos was high in June, and then decreased by July. Thus, despite the previous speculation that the species is capable of successful sexual reproduction throughout the year, the present study shows seasonality in reproduction of R. compacta, with at least a peak season during summer.

(Received June 28 2007)

(Accepted February 28 2008)

(Online publication June 24 2008)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Atsuko Sato Department of Zoology, University of Oxford South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 4JD UK email: