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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 301:173-184 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps301173

Interacting effects of wave exposure, tidal height and substratum on spatial variation in densities of mussel Perna perna plantigrades

C. D. McQuaid*, J. R. Lindsay

Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa

ABSTRACT: A fine time-scale study was undertaken on the effects of wave exposure, tidal height and substratum type on mussel recruit densities on the south coast of South Africa. Prior to sampling, an exposed and a sheltered shore were identified at each of 2 sites (Diaz Cross and High Rocks) 7 km apart. Each shore was divided into 3 shore levels (termed zones) within which 3 substrata (adult mussels, coralline and non-coralline macroalgae) were sampled. Destructive sampling of early (<1 mm) and late (1 to 5 mm) plantigrades was performed daily over 30 d during a period of comparatively high recruitment. Recruitment was synchronised among substrata within zones, but not among zones or between sites. This suggests that larvae will settle on all substrata within a zone, but will prefer some substrata over others. They will not, however, search among zones for favoured substrata. Densities of early (but not late) plantigrades were consistently greater at Diaz Cross than High Rocks, indicating important differences in post-settlement mortality between sites. At both sites, densities of both recruit classes were greater on the low and mid shore than on the high shore. Generally (18 out of 20 comparisons), plantigrade densities within each zone were greater on algae than on adult mussels. Approximately 45% of all recruits collected were found on the foliose coralline alga Corallina, 37% on adult mussels and 18% on the rhodophyte Gelidium pristoides. Without secondary relocation from macroalgae to adult mussel beds, juveniles recruiting onto algae are likely to be lost. On low shore algae, densities of both early and late plantigrades were greater for exposed shores. Densities of plantigrades on the mussel bed and on algae on the mid and high shore were not correlated with exposure. Thus, site, substratum and zone all had significant and interacting effects on the density of recruits on both exposed and sheltered shores. The effect of wave exposure on recruitment, at least on the low shore, suggests that spatial subsidies not only in the form of food supply, but also in the form of larval transport, have a role in structuring mussel populations.

KEY WORDS: Perna perna · Rocky shores · Recruitment · Settlement

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