Studies on rocky intertidal gastropods indicate habitat complexity and body size to be major determinants of dispersal patterns. Considerations of effects of habitat complexity and body size on soft sediment gastropods are, however, less common. In neither habitat has the interaction between habitat complexity and body size been considered despite the increasing recognition in the general ecological literature that complexity effects are body-size-dependent. We tested independent and interacting effects of habitat complexity and body size on movement of the mud-whelk, Pyrazus ebeninus, by marking large (61-85 mm) and small (31-55 mm) snails in sites with low and high densities of pneumatophores and determining the distance and direction of their dispersal over periods of 1 week, 2 weeks and 1 month. Contrary to our expectation, we found no effect of pneumatophore density on the distance of snail migration over each of the temporal scales; net distance travelled by snails was determined only by body size and idiosynchratic, site-specific factors. The direction of snail movement was, by contrast, influenced on some temporal scales by both pneumatophore density and snail size. Over 1 week, site effects dominated patterns of movement and neither size of snail nor density of pneumatophore produced statistically significant effects. As the temporal scale increased, effects of size and pneumatophore density became increasingly apparent. Over the 1-month period, large snails at all sites and small snails at sites with high pneumatophore density migrated down the shore, while small snails at sites with low pneumatophore displayed non-directional movement. Thus, overall this study provides only weak support for effects of pneumatophore density on snail movement. In combination with other studies, our results suggest that, in comparison to on rocky shores where habitat complexity has strong effects on the distribution, abundance and behaviour of gastropods in soft-sediment systems habitat complexity is a less important structuring agent.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology|
|Publication status||Published - 2 Jan 2007|
- Body size