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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 346:243-254 (2007)  -  DOI:

Distribution and retention of Sabellaria alveolata larvae (Polychaeta: Sabellariidae) in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Stanislas Dubois1,3,*, Thierry Comtet2, Christian Retière1, Eric Thiébaut2

1UMR 5178 BOME (MNHN, CNRS, UPMC)—Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département Milieux et Peuplements Aquatiques, Station Marine de Dinard, BP 70134, 35801 Dinard cedex, France
2UMR 7144 CNRS—Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Station Biologique, BP 74, 29682 Roscoff cedex, France
3Present address: IFREMER, Centre de Brest, Laboratoire DYNECO Ecologie Benthique, Technopole de Brest-Iroise, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France

ABSTRACT: The gregarious polychaete Sabellaria alveolata is an important foundation species whose reef structures add topographic complexity and high levels of biodiversity in sandflats. In the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, France, S. alveolata reefs are considered the largest reef formations in Europe and are increasingly endangered by anthropogenic pressure. In order to understand the role of larval transport on the resilience capacity of these biogenic reefs, multiple complementary approaches were carried out within the bay in 2002 to study horizontal and vertical distribution of S. alveolata larvae and assess larval dispersal processes. Plankton samples collected twice a month from March to October showed an extended period of larval occurrence, from the end of April to October, with 2 peaks of high abundance. The main spawning period occurred early in May, and a smaller peak occurred in September. Mean planktonic lifetime has been calculated to be between 4 and 10 wk. At large scale, larval distribution was patchy and the maximal abundance could reach about 28000 larvae m–2. Larval densities were strongly correlated with physico-chemical parameters so that larvae were more abundant in a warmer and less saline coastal water mass characterised by a higher concentration in chlorophyll a. The presence of a large anticyclonic gyre in the bay seemed to play a significant role in controlling larval dispersal by concentrating larvae within the bay. At 1 station in the bay, short-term variations of larval abundances in the water column appeared to be regulated by the tidal cycle, as larvae were more abundant at the end of ebb tide, confirming the very coastal distribution of larvae. Furthermore, S. alveolata larvae tended to migrate closer to the surface during flood and near the bottom during ebb, promoting a net landward transport of larvae. Despite a long larval lifespan, our results indicate that tidal residual currents, especially a coastal gyre, and tidal vertical migration may favour larval retention within the bay.

KEY WORDS: Sabellaria alveolata · Polychaetes · Larval dispersal · Vertical migration · Planktonic lifetime · English Channel · Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

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Cite this article as: Dubois S, Comtet T, Retière C, Thiébaut E (2007) Distribution and retention of Sabellaria alveolata larvae (Polychaeta: Sabellariidae) in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, France. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 346:243-254.

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