Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

Direct development in a Nudibranch, Cadlina laevis, with a discussion of developmental processes in Opisthobranchia

T. E. Thompsona1

a1 Zoology Department, University of Bristol


Cadlina laevis (L.) is the first British species of nudibranch shown to possess direct development. The embryo leaves the egg-capsule approximately 50 days (at 10° C) after oviposition, and resembles the adult in the general form of the body. Sufficient food reserves remain to sustain life and apparent growth for more than 1 week of benthic life. A vestigial veliger phase is passed through within the egg-capsule. The shell, velum, mantle, and metapodium-rudiment resemble transitorily those organs of opisthobranch veliger larvae, but certain veliger structures (larval kidney, velar locomotor and pedal cilia) are vestigial in Cadlina, and others are altogether absent (operculum, larval retractor muscle, subvelar ridges, metapodial mucus-gland, pedal sensory cilia, and nephrocysts).

In the Opisthobranchia three distinct development types can be recognized. Type 1 includes those species which possess planktotrophic veliger larvae. Type 2 comprises the species which have lecithotrophic larvae (in the sense employed by Ockelmann, 1965). Type 3 species have direct development, in which many veliger structures may be briefly recapitulated before hatching. Species of type 3 possess eggs of the largest sizes, species of type 2 in general have smaller eggs, while species of type 1 possess the smallest eggs. There is a positive correlation between egg size and the length of the embryonic period, and an inverse correlation between both and batch size. Within any development-type, the largest species tend to produce larger eggs in greater numbers. Within any species, the largest individuals tend to produce more eggs than do the smaller individuals; egg size varies little through the geographical range.