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Tidal height, rather than habitat selection for conspecifics, controls settlement in mussels
Porri, F.; Zardi, G.I.; McQuaid, C.D.; Radloff, S. (2007). Tidal height, rather than habitat selection for conspecifics, controls settlement in mussels. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 152(3): 631-637.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Porri, F.
  • Zardi, G.I.
  • McQuaid, C.D.
  • Radloff, S.

    Settlement is a major determinant of intertidal populations. However, the energy costs of lost larvae are very high. Accordingly, arrival and attachment on suitable substrata are essential requirements for species’ survival. On the intertidal, the presence of cues left by adult or juvenile conspecifics could be vital for the successful establishment of larvae arriving on the shore. Two mussel species, the indigenous Perna perna and the invasive Mytilus galloprovincialis, co-occur on the lower eulittoral zone on the south coast of South Africa. P. perna dominates the low and M. galloprovincialis the high mussel zones, with co-existence in the mid mussel zone. This study tested the hypothesis of settlement selectivity for conspecifics in these two mussel species, to understand whether the final adult distribution of mussels on the shores is determined by active behavioural and chemical mechanisms. Preferential selection by larvae for conspecifics was tested in the field during the peak settlement period in 2004 in natural mussel beds across zones and through manipulative experiments in the mid-zone where the species co-exist. On natural beds, settlement was determined by counts of settlers attached over 48 h onto artificial collectors. Collectors were placed on beds of P. perna and M. galloprovincialis present at both high- and low-adult densities, as well as in mixed beds. On such natural beds, settlers of both species consistently favored low-zone P. perna beds. Settlement patterns over 24 h onto experimentally created mussel patches consisting of P. perna, M. galloprovincialis or the two species combined beds, set in the mixed zone, did not conform with the results of the natural beds study: settlers of both species settled with no discrimination among different patches. The results indicate that mussels, which are sedentary, lack attraction to conspecifics at settlement. This highlights the importance of tidal height in setting settlement rates, and of post-settlement events in shaping populations of these broadcast spawners.

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