The opportunistic, deposit-feeding polychaete Capitella sp. I is the overwhelming numerical dominant in disturbed and enriched sediments and rarely co-occurs in appreciable numbers with other abundant mud-dwelling macrofauna. Rapid colonization and population increase in organicrich sediments is typically followed by subsequent sharp decline. The mechanistic basis for these characteristics was explored in flume-flow experiments that tested whether settling Capitella sp. I larvae avoid sediments inhabited by macrofaunal adults or sediments reworked by them. The first set of experiments consisted of four treatments: conspecific adults or no adults in reworked or non-reworked sediment. Capitella sp. I settlement was significantly altered (depressed) only by pelletized sediment of conspecific adults. The second set of experiments involved similar treatments, but with adults of the deposit-feeding bivalve Tellina agilis. Neither adult presence nor sediment reworking significantly affected settlement of Capitella sp. I larvae. A third set of experiments that compared settlement in sediments with and without the suspension-feeding bivalve Mulinia lateralis demonstrated no significant treatment effect. These results suggest that larval settlement behavior could contribute to population growth in a "boom and bust" species when a critical limiting resource is overexploited. That is, sediments completely pelletized by Capitella sp. I adults may signal settling larvae that organic matter is depleted. Larvae may therefore settle in smaller numbers and are more likely to be dispersed away from abundant populations of adults. Active avoidance of conspecific adults or adults of other taxa is unimportant for the taxa at the densities tested here.