MEPS 549:113-123 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11691

Macroalgae contribute to the diet of Patella vulgata from contrasting conditions of latitude and wave exposure in the UK

Gillian M. Notman1,2,5,*, Rona A. R. McGill3, Stephen J. Hawkins2,4, Michael T. Burrows1

1Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, Oban PA37 1QA, UK
2Marine Biological Association of the UK, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
3NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, East Kilbride G75 0QF, UK
4Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
5Present address: Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies, University of Cumbria, Ambleside LA22 1BB, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Analysis of gut contents and stable isotope composition of intertidal limpets (Patella vulgata) showed a major contribution of macroalgae to their diet, along with microalgae and invertebrates. Specimens were collected in areas with limited access to attached macroalgae, suggesting a major dietary component of drift algae. Gut contents of 480 animals from 2 moderately wave-exposed and 2 sheltered rocky shores in each of 2 regions (western Scotland, 55-56°N; and southwest England, 50°N), were analysed in 2 years (n = 30 site-1 yr-1). The abundance of microalgae, macroalgae and invertebrates within the guts was quantified using categorical abundance scales. Gut content composition was compared among regions and wave exposure conditions, showing that the diet of P. vulgata changes with both wave exposure and latitude. Microalgae were most abundant in limpet gut contents in animals from southwestern sites, whilst leathery/corticated macroalgae were more prevalent and abundant in limpets from sheltered and northern sites. P. vulgata appears to have a more flexible diet than previously appreciated, and these keystone grazers consume not only microalgae, but also large quantities of macroalgae and small invertebrates. To date, limpet grazing studies have focussed on their role in controlling recruitment of macroalgae by feeding on microscopic propagules and germlings. Consumption of adult algae suggests that P. vulgata may also directly control the biomass of attached macroalgae on the shore, whilst consumption of drift algae indicates that the species may play important roles in coupling subtidal and intertidal production.


KEY WORDS: Stable isotope · Gut contents analysis · Limpet · Trophic ecology · Fucus · Ascophyllum · Rocky shore


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Cite this article as: Notman GM, McGill RAR, Hawkins SJ, Burrows MT (2016) Macroalgae contribute to the diet of Patella vulgata from contrasting conditions of latitude and wave exposure in the UK. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 549:113-123. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11691

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