The common orange-footed sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa) spawns in the early spring in Maine, and we have been estimating the timing and synchrony of this activity with plankton samples over a five-year period. Early work resulted in a publication by student Nina Therkildsen and me (link here) on the magnitude of the fishery, and current work examines the synchrony of reproduction within and between sites and the cues individuals might use to trigger spawning. This species is the focus of a fishery that has emerged over the past 20 years, and very little is known of their reproductive biology in Maine. This work has been funded from 2002-2010 by a Rockefeller Family Grant.
Currently, Kate Ross is analyzing five years of data on spawning synchrony and timing. Preliminary results show that spawning is highly synchronized, but that it isn’t synchronized between adjacent bays and it doesn’t follow a lunar or semi-lunar periodicity. Kate is looking at water temperature and productivity data, trying to determine what environmental cues the species might be using.