MEPS 206:147-154 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps206147

Effect of wave exposure on growth and mortality rates of the mussel Perna perna: bottom up regulation of intertidal populations

C. D. McQuaid*, T. L. Lindsay

Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

ABSTRACT: The effect of wave exposure on the growth of low-shore populations of Perna perna (Linnaeus) was determined using 3 independent approaches at 6 sites on the south coast of South Africa: (1) Individual marking; notches were filed on the growing edges of mussels in situ. After 111 d, growth from the mark to the new growing edge was measured. (2) Internal shell-growth bands; mussels from the mark recapture experiment were used to establish that growth bands are laid down tidally. Unmarked individuals were then used to measure growth over the last 60 tides. (3) Shepherd¹s length-composition analysis (SLCA); growth rates were determined from length-frequency distributions in 11 samples collected at 6 wk intervals over 15 mo. All 3 approaches showed that growth rate was approximately twice as fast on exposed as on sheltered shores (ANCOVA, p < 0.05 in all cases). Mean length for the first year of growth (averaged for the 3 methods) was 47 and 22 mm, respectively. There were, however, considerable differences among methods. Marking provided the lowest estimates of growth rates, and SLCA the highest. The mean mortality index (Z yr-1) was significantly higher and annual survival rate lower for exposed shores, indicating faster turnover under exposed conditions. Mean longevity on exposed shores (2.6 yr) was only one-third of estimated longevity on sheltered shores (6.7 yr). These findings show that degree of exposure has important interactions with growth and mortality of mussels on the low shore, and that these effects are independent of the effects of exposure on density. The findings also indicate strong bottom up regulation of mussel populations.

KEY WORDS: Growth · Mortality · Mussels · Perna perna · Wave exposure · Bottom up regulation

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