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Movement patterns of the seastar Heliaster helianthus in central Chile: relationship with environmental conditions and prey availability
Barahona, M.; Navarrete, S.A. (2010). Movement patterns of the seastar Heliaster helianthus in central Chile: relationship with environmental conditions and prey availability. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(3): 647-661.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Barahona, M.
  • Navarrete, S.A.

    The rates and patterns of feeding and displacement of predators constitute two of the most important plastic behavioral responses that allow individuals to respond quickly to changes in abundance of their prey, predation risks and to rapid alterations in environmental conditions. In this study, we quantified seasonal and spatial variation in displacement (net changes in location in 12 or 24 h periods) and prey consumed of marked individuals of the keystone seastar Heliaster helianthus at six sites spanning 600 km along the coast of north-central Chile. We evaluated the hypotheses that: (1) at sites with low availability (cover) of the main prey, the mussel Perumytilus purpuratus, Heliaster displays larger displacements and consumes a greater proportion of other prey (e.g. mobile species) than at sites with high mussel cover, (2) daily displacements will be correlated with sea surface temperature (SST) and (3) increased wave action will reduce seastar daily displacement. Our results show that Heliaster displacement is higher at sites with lower availability of P. purpuratus; and at these sites, a larger proportion of Heliaster individuals are observed feeding, mostly on other prey (e.g. limpets), which could offset the higher costs associated with increased movement. In addition, wave forces affected the activity of Heliaster negatively. Contrary to our expectations, the daily displacements did not show any relationship with SST measured on the day or the previous days of the surveys, despite the fact that average displacement was generally higher in summer than in winter months. Future studies should examine Heliaster movement during single foraging excursions and determine whether these responses affect the growth and reproductive output of individuals. Such information is vital to understand how changes in prey abundance and environmental conditions alter the behavior and energy budget of this predator and its ability to control prey populations.

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