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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 571:139-152 (2017)  -  DOI:

A groundwater-fed coastal inlet as habitat for the Caribbean queen conch Lobatus gigas—an acoustic telemetry and space use analysis

Thomas C. Stieglitz1,2,4,*, Antoine M. Dujon2,3 

1Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research and School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
2Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Environnement Marin - CNRS UMR 6539, Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer, Place Nicolas Copernic, 29280 Plouzané, France
3Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Warrnambool, VIC 3280, Australia
4Present address: Centre de Recherche et d’Enseignement de Géosciences de l’Environnement CEREGE (Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, IRD, Coll France), 13545 Aix-en-Provence, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The queen conch Lobatus (Strombus) gigas, a marine snail, is among the most important fisheries resources of the Caribbean region. To provide effective protection in marine reserves, a good understanding of its habitat usage is essential. Queen conches commonly inhabit marine habitats. In this study, its activity space in a marginal estuarine-like habitat, the groundwater-fed inlet of Xel-Há (Mexico) was determined using high-resolution acoustic telemetry (VEMCO Positioning System). Thirty-eight animals with syphonal lengths ranging from 80 to 200 mm were tagged, 1 of them with an accelerometer tag. Their trajectories were recorded for 20 mo at 5 m resolution in a closely spaced array of 12 receivers. Space–time kernel home ranges ranged from 1000 to 18500 m2 with an ontogenetically increasing trend. Juveniles, subadults and most adults displayed continuous, non-patchy home ranges consistent with the typical intensive feeding activity by this fast-growing gastropod. In some adults, Lévy flight-like fragmentation of home ranges was observed that may be related to feeding range expansion or other ecological drivers such as the breeding cycle. The observed small home ranges indicate that the space use of queen conch in this estuarine-like habitat is not conditioned by food availability, and despite environmental stress due to daily low-oxygen conditions, space use is comparable to that observed in more typical marine habitats. In a marine reserve context, the groundwater-fed inlet provides adequate protection of this inshore queen conch population. Such marginal habitats may play an increasingly important role in conservation management as pressure on populations increase.

KEY WORDS: Lobatus gigas · Queen conch · Acoustic telemetry · Home range · Marine protected area · Marginal habitat · Accelerometer · VEMCO Positioning System

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Cite this article as: Stieglitz TC, Dujon AM (2017) A groundwater-fed coastal inlet as habitat for the Caribbean queen conch Lobatus gigas—an acoustic telemetry and space use analysis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 571:139-152.

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