Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Given the importance attributed to the occupation of space in benthic coral reef communities, this study asks the question: are any particular microhabitat types limiting resources for an assemblage of worm-eating gastropods on Heron reef (Great Barrier Reef). Microhabitat resource use was measured on three occasions, separated by 12 and 20-month periods. The gastropod populations were typical of those of other Indo-Pacific sites with respect to mean shell size and density. Fluctuations in species' size and density are assumed to have not significantly influenced availability of microhabitat resources. Gastropods occurred mainly in the structurally complex “refuge” microhabitats during the day and showed an increased abundance in smooth, exposed, “foraging” microhabitat nocturnally. Nassarius gaudiosus is the most extreme microhabitat specialist diurnally and the most extreme microhabitat generalist nocturnally. A similar, although less pronounced trend was exhibited by other gastropod species. Microhabitat niche overlap was high for Conus coronatus, C. miliaris, C. flavidus, Vasum turbinellus and N. gaudiosus at night and was also high during the day for all these species except N. gaudiosus, which showed little overlap with other gastropod species diurnally. Using gastropod abundance data from all samples, and independently derived microhabitat abundance data, multiple regression analysis demonstrated: 1) A significant relationship between the abundances of N. gaudiosus, C. coronatus, and C. flavidus and the abundance of microhabitat 2 (sand under rocks=“refuge”). 2) No positive association between gastropod abundance and the abundance of microhabitat 7a (thin layer of algal-bound sand on reef limestone). Only N. gaudiosus is abundant in microhabitat 2. Therefore it is concluded that, with some exceptions, microhabitat abundance does not have a significant influence, directly or indirectly, on gastropod abundance. It is possible that density-independent mortality is maintaining gastropod densities below that at which competitive interactions, with respect to microhabitats, have significant effects on the gastropods' use of those resources.
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