Scientia Marina, Vol 71, No 4 (2007)

Predation upon Diadema aff. Zantillarum in barren grounds in the Canary Islands


https://doi.org/10.3989/scimar.2007.71n4745

Sabrina Clemente
Departamento de Biología Animal (Ciencias Marinas), Facultad de Biología, Universidad de La Laguna, Spain

José Carlos Hernández
Departamento de Biología Animal (Ciencias Marinas), Facultad de Biología, Universidad de La Laguna, Spain

Kilian Toledo
Departamento de Biología Animal (Ciencias Marinas), Facultad de Biología, Universidad de La Laguna, Spain

Alberto Brito
Departamento de Biología Animal (Ciencias Marinas), Facultad de Biología, Universidad de La Laguna, Spain

Abstract


Experimental studies were carried out to determine the effects of predation on populations of the sea urchin Diadema aff. antillarum in barren grounds at the Canary Islands. The studied urchin populations were dominated by small to medium sized individuals (24-38 mm) and were variable in space. Tethering experiments showed that predation rates on D. aff. antillarum were very low and no differences were found between sites. Predation was found to be most intense on juveniles (< 20 mm) and on 20-30 mm sized adults, the size range at which most individuals cease to exhibit cryptic behaviour. Urchins with test diameter > 40 mm were not preyed upon whatsoever. We have experimentally demonstrated that there is an absolute predator ‘escape size’ of around 40 mm for D. aff. antillarum individuals in barren grounds. Predation rates obtained for juveniles show that a sufficient number may escape predation and sustain the adult population, maintaining the urchin barren habitat. Recruitment and topographic complexity, rather than predation, seem to determine the structure of urchin populations in barren grounds. We conclude that predation in fished barren grounds of the Canarian Archipelago is not of sufficient magnitude to substantially alter dense urchin populations and cause community-level effects.

Keywords


predation rate; barren grounds; population structure; cryptic behaviour; tethering experiments; ‘escape size’; Diadema aff. antillarum; Canary Islands

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