The lower limit of the Laminaria hyperborea (Gunn.) Foslie zone is probably not always determined only by lack of sufficient light, even when a suitable substratum is present (Kain, 1962). It also appears that the establishment stage is critical although growth conditions deteriorate with depth (Kain, 1963). It therefore seemed desirable to determine exactly what the light requirements of the various different early stages were, and relate these to what could be found out about the light penetration in the natural habitat. The effect of temperature on these stages is also of interest, in relation to the seasonal cycle as well as to the geographical distribution of the species. In this study two different techniques were used: culturing the gametophytes on cover-slips and also studying changes in oxygen concentration as measured by the Winkler method.
The gametophytes of the different members of the Laminariales show a similar general course of development. A zoospore from a fertile frond of a Laminaria plant loses its motility, rounds off, swells and produces a tube with another sphere at the end into which all the cell contents pass (Killian, 1911). This process can be carried through in the dark but further development depends on light (Schreiber, 1930). In this genus the gametophytes are dioecious (Sauvageau, 1918; Williams, 1921) and equal numbers of male and female plants are produced (Schreiber, 1930). The female gametophyte may become fertile before dividing further (Sauvageau, 1918), resulting in a single egg, or may form a luxuriant filamentous structure which may produce many oogonia over a period of time (Ikari, 1921; Myers, 1925; Schreiber, 1930).