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Feeding aggregations of sea stars (Asterias spp. and Henricia sanguinolenta) associated with sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) grazing fronts in Nova Scotia
Scheibling, R.E.; Lauzon-Guay, J.-S. (2007). Feeding aggregations of sea stars (Asterias spp. and Henricia sanguinolenta) associated with sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) grazing fronts in Nova Scotia. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 151(3): 1175-1183. http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-006-0562-3
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Scheibling, R.E.
  • Lauzon-Guay, J.-S.

Abstract
    Migrating feeding aggregations (or fronts) of sea urchins can dramatically alter subtidal seascapes by destructively grazing macrophytes. While direct effects of urchin fronts on macrophytes (particularly kelps) are well documented, indirect effects on associated fauna are largely unknown. Secondary aggregations of predators and scavengers form around fronts of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis in Nova Scotia. We recorded mean densities of the sea stars Asterias spp. (mainly A. rubens) and Henricia sanguinolenta of up to 11.6 and 1.7 individuals 0.25 m-2 along an urchin front over 1 year. For Asterias, mean density at the front was 7 and 15 times greater than in the kelp bed and adjacent barrens, respectively. There was strong concordance between locations of peak density of urchins and sea stars (Asterias r = 0.98; H. sanguinolenta r = 0.97) along transects across the kelp–barrens interface, indicating that sea star aggregations migrated along with the urchin front at rates of up to 2.5 m per month. Size–frequency distributions suggest that Asterias at the front were drawn from both the barrens (smaller individuals) and the kelp bed (larger individuals). These sea stars fed intensively on mussels on kelp holdfasts and in adjacent patches. Urchin grazing may precipitate aggregations of sea stars and other predators or scavengers by incidentally consuming or damaging mussels and other small invertebrates, and thereby releasing a strong odor cue. Consumption of protective holdfasts and turf algae by urchins could facilitate feeding by these consumers, which may obtain a substantial energy subsidy during destructive grazing events.

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