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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 182:209-220 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps182209

Life history of the sandhopper Pseudorchestoidea brasiliensis (Amphipoda) in sandy beaches with contrasting morphodynamics

Julio Gómez, Omar Defeo*

UNDECIMAR, Facultad de Ciencias, Iguá 4225, PO Box 10773, 11400 Montevideo, Uruguay and Instituto Nacional de Pesca, Constituyente 1497, 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay
*Address for correspondence: CINVESTAV IPN Unidad Mérida, A.P. 73 Cordemex, 97310 Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Exposed marine beaches are physically rigorous habitats in which macrofauna community patterns are related to physical factors such as sedimentary parameters and wave/swash processes. In this context, a consistent increase in species richness, abundance and biomass from reflective to dissipative conditions has been widely reported, and proposed as a paradigm of sandy beach ecology. Here, we examine this hypothesis on the demography and life history characteristics of the sandhopper Pseudorchestoidea brasiliensis of Uruguay. Abundance, population structure by sex and size, individual growth, natural mortality, fecundity, female maturity and size at maturity, and the length-weight relationship were compared between populations of 2 microtidal exposed sandy beaches that differed widely in physical characteristics (i.e. grain size, slope, penetrability and water content), during 20 consecutive months. Contrasting with the predictions of 'the sandy beach ecological paradigm', the population of P. brasiliensis at the reflective beach presented (1) higher abundance both for males and females; (2) higher egg production potential and recruitment levels; (3) lower natural mortality; and (4) no major differences in individual growth and estimated life span to those of the dissipative beach population. On the contrary, growth in weight, individual fecundity and average size at maturity were higher for the dissipative beach population. We conclude that population level responses to variation in sandy beach morphodynamics may markedly differ from community level responses, and thus macroscale, world-wide community patterns could not necessarily characterise life history and demographic variations of individual species in a similar manner. We suggest that the paradigm of the forces generating patterns in sandy beach communities has underestimated the importance of population regulation mechanisms in these communities.

KEY WORDS: Sandhopper · Amphipoda · Population demography · Life history · Sandy beaches · Beach morphodynamics

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