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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 620:1-13 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12976

FEATURE ARTICLE
Drought alters the spatial distribution, grazing patterns, and radula morphology of a fungal-farming salt marsh snail

B. Chalifour1,2,*, J. R. H. Hoogveld3, M. Derksen-Hooijberg3, K. L. Harris4, J. M. Urueña4, W. G. Sawyer4,5,6, T. van der Heide3,7,8, C. Angelini9

1Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Florida, PO Box 116455, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
2Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder, 34 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
3Department of Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology, Radboud University, 6525 AJ Nijmegen, The Netherlands
4Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Florida, 231 MAE-A, PO Box 116250, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
5Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Florida, 231 MAE-A, PO Box 116250, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
6J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida, 231 MAE-A, PO Box 116250, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
7Department of Coastal Systems, Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research and Utrecht University, 1790 AB Den Burg, the Netherlands
8Conservation Ecology Group, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, 9700 CC University of Groningen, the Netherlands
9Environmental Engineering Sciences, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, University of Florida, PO Box 116580, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Climate change is altering consumer-plant interactions in ecosystems worldwide. How consumers alter their spatial distribution, grazing activities, and functional morphology in response to climate stress can determine whether their effects on plants intensify or relax. Few studies have considered multiple consumer response metrics to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning the resulting changes in consumer-plant interactions. Here, we tested how drought stress influences the interaction between the dominant consumer, the fungal-farming periwinkle snail Littoraria irrorata, and a foundational plant, cordgrass Spartina alterniflora, in a southeastern US salt marsh. In a 4 mo field experiment, we maintained moderate snail densities in mesh control chambers and clear plastic climate chambers that simulated drought by elevating temperatures and drying soils. Monitoring revealed that snails more often congregated on cordgrass stems than leaves in climate chambers than in controls. Image analyses indicated that this behavioral shift corresponded to snails inflicting shorter, but more numerous, fungal-infested scars on cordgrass leaves, and causing less plant damage in climate chambers than controls. Coincident with their net reduction in grazing, snails maintained longer radulae, whose central teeth were blunter and lateral teeth were sharper, in climate chambers compared to controls. These results suggest that under drought, snail radulae may experience less frictional wear and that, at intermediate densities, snail-cordgrass interactions relax. Together with prior research showing that at high densities, snails can denude cordgrass during drought, we conclude that consumer density, behavior, and morphological responses must be integrated in predictions of how climate change will affect the direction, strength, and stability of consumer-plant interactions.


KEY WORDS: Climate change · Coastal wetland · Herbivory · Littoraria irrorata · Spartina alterniflora


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Cite this article as: Chalifour B, Hoogveld JRH, Derksen-Hooijberg M, Harris KL and others (2019) Drought alters the spatial distribution, grazing patterns, and radula morphology of a fungal-farming salt marsh snail. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 620:1-13. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12976

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