As of the end of this summer, my results are inconclusive. Some tantalizing data (pictured below) suggests small larvae may clone at a higher rate, perhaps to overcome the increased
mortality suffered by the smaller, weaker larvae. However, though these data look exciting, we do not have enough confidence to back them up. It is clearly something that has potential though, hence my desires for next summer.
There is also an interesting wave of cloning with time. It appears the larvae go through phases of high cloning rates then we see a lull then back to a new phase of cloning. The small and large treatments seem to follow this pattern. The issue came with the density measurements. First, we saw a general decrease in density which is contrary to what would be expected if the larvae were cloning. Second, the initial protocol did not allow for precise enough measurements.
All in all, I will be excited come sea star spawning season.
(photo credit: J. Allen)