Thermal constraints on daily patterns of aggregation and density along an intertidal gradient in the periwinkle Echinolittorina peruviana
Camus, Patricio A.
DescriptionArtículo de publicación ISI
MetadataShow full item record
Variations in environmental temperature have both direct and indirect effects that affect organisms at levels ranging from intra-cellular physiological processes to ecological patterns. These variations are especially important for intertidal marine ectotherms such as littorinids since they alternate between periods of immersion in seawater, and must also experience long periods of emersion. In central Chile, Echinolittorina peruviana is one of the most conspicuous species on rocky intertidal shores, occurring at high tidal levels and in the splash zone. The species is known to resist direct exposure to the sun for long periods, although juveniles tend to be restricted to protected microhabitats. Adults show seasonal variations in abundance and vertical distribution and may form aggregations that have been shown to help reduce water loss and body temperature. In this study, we evaluate the relationship between daily thermal variations throughout the vertical distribution of this species and how these affect the patterns of density and aggregation. Our results suggest that one of the leading determinants of the spatio-temporal variation of density in E. peruviana may be operative temperature (TO: the amount of stored heat resulting from the balance between heat fluxes into and out of the body, measured with taxidermic mounts mimicking heat transfer properties of the snail). TO showed a strong negative relationship with density and a strong positive relationship with aggregation in the highest intertidal level monitored. The strength of these relationships decreased in importance at lower levels. While TO alone cannot explain the abundance of E. peruviana throughout its range of distribution, our results show that it does have a strong influence that should be considered in addition to other ecological factors affecting the density of intertidal littorinids.