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Juvenile–adult associations in sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus and S. droebachiensis): protection from predation and hydrodynamics in S. franciscanus
Nishizaki, M.T.; Ackerman, J.D. (2007). Juvenile–adult associations in sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus and S. droebachiensis): protection from predation and hydrodynamics in S. franciscanus. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 151(1): 135-145.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Nishizaki, M.T.
  • Ackerman, J.D.

    Juvenile red sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, aggregate under adult conspecifics, whereas sympatric juvenile green sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, are typically more solitary and dispersed. Neither the potential advantage of juvenile sheltering nor the differences in post-settlement behavior between the two species has been demonstrated experimentally, but may be related to protection from predators and/or hydrodynamics. In predation experiments, juvenile vulnerability differed in the two species as the seastar Pycnopodia helianthoides consistently chose juvenile S. franciscanus over S. droebachiensis (100% vs. 0%). When associated with adults, juvenile mortality decreased dramatically in S. franciscanus (90% alone vs. 5% with adults), but very little in S. droebachiensis (85% vs. 75%). Not surprisingly, juvenile behavioral responses in the two species reflect this difference in vulnerability. Juvenile S. franciscanus sheltered under adults when predation risk was high, but not when risk was low (44% vs. 13%), whereas sheltering in S. droebachiensis was infrequent and not related to predation risk (7% for high risk versus 5% for low risk). From a hydrodynamic perspective, the presence of an adult led to the creation of a hydrodynamic refuge for juveniles, where average water velocities were reduced by > 60% around the adult urchin. Again, striking differences in sheltering rate were apparent in S. franciscanus (52% vs. 13% for high flow and low flow, respectively), but not S. droebachiensis (5% for high flow versus 4% for low flow). Sheltering behavior was also species-specific as juveniles did not shelter at high rates under adults of the opposite species (= 16%). A field survey confirmed these finding in that juvenile S. franciscanus abundance was associated with both adults and water motion (R 2 = 0.80, P = 0.008, best-subsets regression). These results suggest that sheltering confers juvenile S. franciscanus with a degree of protection from predators and water motion, and that species-specific differences in this post-settlement behavior may be related to the differences in the protection afforded by adults.

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