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Coexistence in a sea urchin guild and its implications to coral reef diversity and degradation
McClanahan, T.R. (1988). Coexistence in a sea urchin guild and its implications to coral reef diversity and degradation. Oecologia 77(2): 210-218.
In: Oecologia. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0029-8549, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Diadema savignyi (Audouin, 1809) [WoRMS]; Diadema setosum (Leske, 1778) [WoRMS]; Echinometra mathaei (Blainville, 1825) [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    Coexistence, coral reefs, overfishing, recruitment

Author  Top 
  • McClanahan, T.R.

    Coexistence between the coral reef inhabiting sea urchins Echinometra mathaei, Diadema savignyi and D. setosum was studied by comparing differences in body morphology, distribution, diet, susceptibility to predators, intra- and interspecific competition and settlement. The three species share similar diets and broad within-habitat distributions but differ in their microspatial preferences. E. mathaei is the smallest species, has the highest settlement rates and lives territorially within small burrows or crevices. D. savignyi is intermediate in size and lives frequently in intermediate size crevices or occassionally in social groups. D. setosum is the largest species and occassionally lives in large crevices or more frequently in social groups. Both Diadema have similarily low settlement rates. Competition experiments showed that E. mathaei was consistently the top competitor for crevice space. Diadema species shared larger crevices but competition occured within smaller crevices and was frequently won by the largest individual, regardless of species. D. savignyi may be the top competitor for crevice space between the Diadema species due to a reduced spine length/test size ratio which gives it a larger test for the same crevice size requirement. Predation rates were high for E. mathaei and low for both Diadema species. Coexistence is mediated by predation on the competitive-dominant while predation coupled with different body morphologies and behavior allows spatial resource partitioning of the reef's variable topography. Consequently, the three variables of predation, topographic complexity and differing body shapes create the observed species diversity. A reduction in predators due to stochastic fluctuations or from fishing pressure can lead to E. mathaei population increases and competitive exclusion of Diadema.

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