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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 621:143-154 (2019)  -  DOI:

Diet and growth of juvenile queen conch Lobatus gigas (Gastropoda: Strombidae) in native, mixed and invasive seagrass habitats

Erik Maitz Boman1,2,*, Tadzio Bervoets3, Martin de Graaf4, Jana Dewenter5, Anna Maitz6, Melanie P. Meijer Zu Schlochtern3, Johan Stapel6, Aad C. Smaal1,2, Leopold A. J. Nagelkerke2

1Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen University & Research, 4401 NT Yerseke, The Netherlands
2Aquaculture and Fisheries group (AFI), Wageningen University & Research, 6708 WD Wageningen, The Netherlands
3Nature Foundation St Maarten, Wellsburg St, Cole Bay, St Maarten
4Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales Government (NSW), 2700 Narrandera, Riverina, NSW, Australia
5Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
6Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI), L. E. Saddlerweg Oranjestad, St Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Juvenile queen conch are primarily associated with native seagrass such as Thalassia testudinum in large parts of their range in the Caribbean and the southern Gulf of Mexico. Here, a number of non-native seagrass species have been introduced including Halophila stipulacea, which is natural to the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific. In the Caribbean, H. stipulacea often creates dense continuous mats with little or no sediment exposed, compared to native seagrass, which grows much less dense. We examined the diet and growth of juvenile conch in both native, mixed, and invasive seagrass beds using stable isotope analysis and an in situ growth enclosure experiment. Organic material in the sediment (i.e. benthic diatoms and particulate organic matter) was found to be the most important source of carbon and nitrogen for juvenile queen conch in all 3 habitats investigated, and there was a significantly higher probability of positive growth in the native seagrass compared to the invasive seagrass. Due to the importance of the organic material in the sediment as a source of nutrition for juvenile conch, limited access to the sediment in the invasive seagrass can potentially cause inadequate nutritional conditions to sustain high growth rates. Thus, it is likely that there is a negative effect on juvenile queen conch growth currently inhabiting invasive seagrass beds, compared to native seagrass beds, when other potential sources of nutrition are not available.

KEY WORDS: Halophila stipulacea · Invasive species · Stable isotope · Mollusca · Caribbean

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Cite this article as: Boman EM, Bervoets T, de Graaf M, Dewenter J and others (2019) Diet and growth of juvenile queen conch Lobatus gigas (Gastropoda: Strombidae) in native, mixed and invasive seagrass habitats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 621:143-154.

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