Phenotypic variation in shell form in the intertidal acorn barnacle Chthamalus montagui: distribution, response to predators and life history trade-offs

Jefferson Murua, Michael T. Burrows, Roger N. Hughes, Stephen J. Hawkins, Richard C. Thompson, Stuart R. Jenkins

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The acorn barnacle Chthamalus montagui can present strong variation in shell morphology, ranging from flat conic to a highly bent form, caused by a substantial overgrowth of the rostrum plate. Shell shape distribution was investigated between January and May 2004 from geographical to microhabitat spatial scales along the western coast of Britain. Populations studied in the north (Scotland and Isle of Man) showed a higher degree of shell variation compared to those in the south (Wales and south-west England). In the north, C. montagui living at lower tidal levels and in proximity to the predatory dogwhelk, Nucella lapillus, were more bent in profile. Laboratory experiments were conducted to examine behavioural responses, and vulnerability of bent and conic barnacles to predation by N. lapillus. Dogwhelks did not attack one morphotype more than the other, but only 15 % of attacks on bent forms were successful compared to 75 % in conic forms. Dogwhelk effluent reduced the time spent feeding by C. montagui (11 %), but there was no significant difference between conic and bent forms. Examination of barnacle morphology indicated a trade-off in investment in shell structure and feeding appendages associated with being bent, but none with egg or somatic tissue mass. These results are consistent with C. montagui showing an induced defence comparable to that found in its congeners Chthamalus anisopoma and Chthamalus fissus on the Pacific coast of North America, but further work to demonstrate inducibility is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2609-2619
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number11
Early online date7 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

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