MEPS 444:85-95 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09396

Sea urchin Tetrapygus niger distribution on elevated surfaces represents a strategy for avoiding predatory sea stars

Juan Diego Urriago1,2,3, John H. Himmelman1, Carlos F. Gaymer2,*

1Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada G1V 0A6
2Departamento de Biología Marina and Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), Universidad Católica del Norte, Casilla 117, Coquimbo, Chile
3Present address: Department of Biology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Swire Institute of Marine Science, Cape d'Aguilar Road, Shek O, Hong Kong SAR

ABSTRACT: We ran field experiments to examine whether the micro-distribution of the sea urchin Tetrapygus niger on elevated surfaces represents a strategy for limiting predation by the sea stars Heliaster helianthus and Meyenaster gelatinosus. Several lines of evidence supported this hypothesis. (1) A survey of the distribution of the urchin and the 2 sea stars showed that urchins occur mainly on elevated surfaces, and sea stars on low surfaces. (2) In trials involving simulated attacks, the time needed by the urchin to sever contact with the sea stars was 48% less on elevated surfaces than on the bottom. (3) In trials involving sustained simulated attacks (high predatory risk) the urchins could detach themselves from the elevated surfaces to avoid being eaten. Finally, tethering experiments indicated that the urchin had a higher survival rate on elevated than low ­surfaces. Our observations indicate that M. gelatinosus represents a stronger predatory threat to T. niger than H. helianthus.


KEY WORDS: Tetrapygus niger · Heliaster helianthus · Meyenaster gelatinosus · Predator−prey interactions · Aggregation · Distribution · Tethering


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Cite this article as: Urriago JD, Himmelman JH, Gaymer CF (2012) Sea urchin Tetrapygus niger distribution on elevated surfaces represents a strategy for avoiding predatory sea stars. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 444:85-95. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09396

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