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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 284:195-209 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps284195

Phenotypic plasticity in the life history of the mangrove snail Cerithidea scalariformis

Nancy F. Smith1,*, Gregory M. Ruiz2

1Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory, Eckerd College, 4200 54th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33711, USA 2Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, PO Box 28, Edgewater, Maryland 21037, USA

ABSTRACT: Although phenotypic variation is commonly observed among populations, the relative contribution of genetic and environmental conditions to phenotypic expression, including life history traits, is often unresolved. We measured characteristics of several isolated populations of the mangrove snail Cerithidea scalariformis across 2 habitat regimes (exposed marsh and forested mangrove marsh) and found considerable variation in all population characteristics over a 2 yr period. Differences existed among populations in density and individual size, and snails in the forested marsh were significantly larger than those in the exposed marsh. In a reciprocal transplant experiment, we tested the extent to which phenotypic plasticity may contribute to observed population differences in size and several other attributes. Regardless of source, snails maintained in the exposed marsh exhibited faster growth, earlier maturation, greater size, and higher rates of parasitism than snails in the forested marsh. Our results demonstrate that considerable plasticity in demographic traits exists in C. scalariformis across the highly variable range of conditions in coastal wetland habitats. The proximate and ultimate cause of plasticity in these snails, as well as any associated advantages, remain to be tested.

KEY WORDS: Cerithidea scalariformis · Growth · Life history variation · Parasitism · Phenotypic plasticity · Reciprocal transplant experiment · Shell morphology

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