MEPS 138:157-168 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps138157

Fouled snails in flow: potential of epibionts on Littorina littorea to increase drag and reduce snail growth rates

Wahl M

Epibiosis is one of the closest interspecies associations. The presence of epibionts potentially causes a multitude of beneficial or detrimental effects for the basibiont. It has been shown previously that large epibionts may increase the risk of dislodgement of bivalves. In this study, sublethal effects of epibiont-induced drag increase are investigated. I assessed (1) the effects of common epibiont species (Balanus improvisus, Enteromorpha intestinalis, Ectocarpus sp.) on drag properties of the host (the periwinkle Littorina littorea), and (2) the long-term consequences of drag increase on growth rates of snails living in steady flow. All epibiont species increase drag on the host snail. They do so to unequal extents. This may be due to morphological and hydrodynamic differences among the epibionts. Thus, per unit volume of epibiont, the filamentous alga Ectocarpus sp. has a substantially stronger effect than the barnacles. Synergistic effects on drag increase can be observed in a mixed aufwuchs community. As compared to clean conspecifics, snails bearing artificial epibionts grow 35% more slowly when exposed to moderate, steady flow (8 cm s-1) for 5 mo. This difference in growth rates is enhanced when food is limited. I hypothesize that fouled snails coping with higher drag invest more energy into foot activities (muscles and mucus). As a consequence, when food is limited, growth rates decrease in fouled snails.


Littorina littorea . Drag . Epibiosis . Epibiosis costs . Growth rates . Energy budget


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