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Niche segregation in sandy beach animals: an analysis with surface-active peracarid crustaceans on the Atlantic coast of Spain
Lastra, M.; Schlacher, T.A.; Olabarria, C. (2010). Niche segregation in sandy beach animals: an analysis with surface-active peracarid crustaceans on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(3): 613-625.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Lastra, M.
  • Schlacher, T.A.
  • Olabarria, C.

    Several species of sandy beach invertebrates regularly switch between burial in the sand during the day and surface activity at night to feed on stranded organic matter. Because all species consume essentially the same type of food (i.e., wrack) deposited over a restricted area, the potential for competition exists. Conversely, spatial and temporal segregation of surface activity behaviour is predicted to allow for niche separation. Here, we tested whether such behavioural niche separation occurs in three species of sympatric crustaceans (the talitrid amphipods Talitrus saltator (Montagu 1808) and Talorchestia brito Stebbing 1891, and the oniscoidean isopod Tylos europaeus Arcangeli 1938). We also assessed whether surface activity is modulated by weather, sea conditions and moon phases. Surface activity was measured over three consecutive moon phases on an exposed beach on the Atlantic Coast of Spain using pitfall traps along three transects from the foredunes to the swash. Adults of the amphipod T. saltator and the isopod T. europaeus overlapped spatially and temporally in their surface activity for most of the night. By contrast, the activity of T. brito was strongly disjunct in time and concentrated into significantly shorter bouts around dawn or dusk. Niche differentiation was also evident along the space axis, where T. brito occurred distinctly lower on the beach. Although several environmental factors (e.g., air and sand temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and wind direction) were correlated with surface activity, this was highly variable amongst species, life stages, and synodic phases, and did not obscure the fundamental mosaic of spatio-temporal heterogeneity amongst species. Nocturnal feeding on beach wrack creates the potential for competition amongst sympatric crustaceans which can, however, be mitigated by behaviour patterns that separate consumers in time and space.

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