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Susceptibility of non-indigenous ascidian species in British Columbia (Canada) to invertebrate predation
Epelbaum, A.; Pearce, C.M.; Therriault, T.W. (2009). Susceptibility of non-indigenous ascidian species in British Columbia (Canada) to invertebrate predation. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 156(6): 1311-1320.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Epelbaum, A.
  • Pearce, C.M.
  • Therriault, T.W.

    Non-indigenous ascidians are known to significantly alter the structure and composition of benthic communities and adversely affect shellfish aquaculture by fouling both the cultured species and the infrastructure. The ability of these species to persist in new locations and their current and potential distributions are dependent upon physiological tolerances to environmental factors and biotic resistance to competition and predation. Despite significant data on global invasion patterns, potential biotic resistance to non-indigenous ascidians is poorly understood. We identified potential predators of four non-indigenous ascidians (Styela clava, Botryllus schlosseri, Botrylloides violaceus, and Didemnum vexillum) in British Columbia (BC), Canada in order to: (1) assess the potential for biotic interference to limit the establishment and/or spread of these ascidian species in BC, and (2) identify candidate species to be used as ascidian biofouling control agents in shellfish aquaculture. Using a series of single- and multiple-choice laboratory experiments, potential benthic predators (including various species of molluscs, echinoderms, and arthropods) were offered non-indigenous ascidians as prey. The sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis and Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, the sea stars Dermasterias imbricata and Evasterias troschelii, the nudibranch Hermissenda crassicornis, and the crabs Cancer productus and Carcinus maenas were found to consume one or more species of non-indigenous ascidians in single-choice experiments. However, when provided a choice, all predators chose their respective preferred food over ascidians. Thus, predation alone is unlikely to prevent large-scale establishment and spread of non-indigenous ascidians in BC, but it may have the potential to significantly reduce localized populations of ascidians. Green sea urchins, S. droebachiensis, were found to be efficient grazers of all four ascidian species, consuming 12.7 ± 5.14 cm2 (mean ± SD) of adult B. violaceus over a 3-day period, 15 ± 3.7 juvenile colonies of B. violaceus over a 2-day period, and 63 ± 28.8 juvenile colonies of B. schlosseri over a 2-day period. Using sea urchins as biological control organisms may significantly reduce ascidian fouling in shellfish aquaculture.

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