, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 83–94 | Cite as

The effect of a species-specific avoidance response to predatory starfish on the intertidal distribution of two gastropods

  • David W. Phillips


The gastropodsAcmaea (Collisella) limatula andAcmaea (Notoacmea) scutum respond to water flowing over certain predatory starfish (i.e. to the scent of the starfish) by moving rapidly up a submerged, vertical surface. These limpets respond with upward movement to the scent ofPisaster ochraceus, Pisaster giganteus, Pycnopodia helianthoides, andLeptasterias aequalis. All of these starfish are predators on molluscs and at least occasionally inhabit the intertidal. In contrast, the limpets respond weakly or not at all to the scent ofPatiria miniata andPisaster brevispinus. Patiria is an omnivorous scavenger, andP. brevispinus is predaceous but strictly subtidal when it occurs on rocky shores. For the starfish tested, then, the limpets only give avoidance responses to starfish species naturally encountered as predators.

The avoidance response ofA. limatula andA. scutum to predatory stafish can also be demonstrated in the field. When onePisaster ochraceus is placed beneath a population of limpets in the intertidal and confined so that contacts between the starfish and limpets are impossible, the limpet population is displaced significantly upward after one tidal cycle. In addition, the closer the limpets are to the starfish, the greater is their upward displacement.


Tidal Cycle Avoidance Response Upward Movement Rocky Shore Vertical Surface 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Phillips
    • 1
  1. 1.Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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