Surface exploration is a key step in the colonization of surfaces by sessile marine biofoulers. As many biofouling organisms can delay settlement until a suitable surface is encountered, colonization can comprise surface exploration and intermittent swimming. As such, the process is best followed in three dimensions. Here we present a low-cost transportable stereoscopic system consisting of two consumer camcorders. We apply this novel apparatus to behavioral analysis of barnacle larvae (≈800 μm length) during surface exploration and extract and analyze the three-dimensional patterns of movement. The resolution of the system and the accuracy of position determination are characterized. As a first practical result, three-dimensional swimming trajectories of the cypris larva of the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides are recorded in the vicinity of a glass surface and close to PEG2000-OH and C11NMe3⁺Cl− terminated self-assembled monolayers. Although less frequently used in biofouling experiments due to its short reproductive season, the selected model species [Marechal and Hellio (2011), Int Biodeterior Biodegrad, 65(1):92–101] has been used following a number of recent investigations on the settlement behavior on chemically different surfaces [Aldred et al. (2011), ACS Appl Mater Interfaces, 3(6):2085–2091]. Experiments were scheduled to match the availability of cyprids off the north east coast of England so that natural material could be used. In order to demonstrate the biological applicability of the system, analysis of parameters such as swimming direction, swimming velocity and swimming angle are performed.
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