Developmental dimorphisms provide an opportunity to compare sensory systems and behavior patterns between different forms of a single species. Alternative morphs differing in dispersal ability often show behavioral differences that mediate life-history trade-offs. We measured the behavioral responses of both long-lived, feeding larvae and short-lived, non-feeding larvae of the specialist marine herbivore Alderia modesta during habitat selection. Larvae immediately responded to waterborne cues from the adult host algae by increasing their turning rate, by changing their swimming speed in the water and by moving in rapid hops or spiraling along the bottom. These behavior patterns retained larvae in areas where the dissolved cue was initially perceived, and prolonged exposure to the cue increased the percentage of larvae that initiated metamorphosis. Despite their differences in life span and trophic mode, both larval morphs displayed similar behavior patterns when stimulated by the waterborne cue. Long-lived larvae had a stronger response, however, suggesting that settlement behavior may offset the costs of a prolonged larval life. This is the first study to examine the effects of dimorphic development on chemosensory-mediated behavior.

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