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Title: The sex lives of ctenophores: the influence of light, body size, and self-fertilization on the reproductive output of the sea walnut, Mnemiopsis leidyi

Ctenophores (comb jellies) are emerging as important animals for investigating fundamental questions across numerous branches of biology (e.g., evodevo, neuroscience and biogeography). A few ctenophore species including, most notably,Mnemiopsis leidyi, are considered as invasive species, adding to the significance of studying ctenophore ecology. Despite the growing interest in ctenophore biology, relatively little is known about their reproduction. Like most ctenophores,M. leidyiis a simultaneous hermaphrodite capable of self-fertilization. In this study, we assess the influence of light on spawning, the effect of body size on spawning likelihood and reproductive output, and the cost of self-fertilization on egg viability inM. leidyi. Our results suggest thatM. leidyispawning is more strongly influenced by circadian rhythms than specific light cues and that body size significantly impacts spawning and reproductive output.Mnemiopsis leidyiadults that spawned alone produced a lower percentage of viable embryos versus those that spawned in pairs, suggesting that self-fertilization may be costly in this species. These results provide insight into the reproductive ecology ofM. leidyiand provide a fundamental resource for researchers working with them in the laboratory.

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