Hydrozoans have a complex life cycle, usually with two or three morphologically different stages. The classic cycle starts with fertilized eggs developing into small, free swimming larvae called planulae, which may be able to enter a dormant resting state to resist unsuitable environmental conditions. Planulae transform into sessile polyps, usually attached to substrate, but free-floating in some groups. Polyps duplicate themselves asexually by budding, often producing colonies of hundreds or thousands of polymorphic individual polyps. Polyps produce "adult" sexually-reproducing medusae by budding. Medusae are solitary, free-swimming, dieocious. They release sperm and eggs into the water, where fertilization occurs. This is the basic cycle, but there is an enormous range of variations. In nearly half of species (e.g. Hydra) the the medusa stage is entirely suppressed; polyps produce gametes directly. In others the medusa are formed, but never detach from the parent polyp, and produce gametes while still attached. In some cases these fused combinations form elaborate structures. In other taxa the polyp stage is suppressed, and planulae transform directly into tiny medusae, or form a polyp, produce a medusa, and resorb the polyp. Numerous taxa have suppressed the planula as well.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis ; colonial growth
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