Marine Biology

, Volume 149, Issue 4, pp 775–787 | Cite as

Movement patterns of the limpet Cellana grata (Gould) observed over a continuous period through a changing tidal regime

  • Mark S. DaviesEmail author
  • M. Edwards
  • Gray A. Williams
Research Article


Time-lapse videography of limpets mounted with light-emitting diodes was used to monitor the movements of a population of the non-homing Cellana grata on a vertical gully wall in Hong Kong. Animals were monitored for >7 days to examine spatial and temporal variation in their behaviour as the tides transited from a semi-diurnal to an almost diurnal pattern. Movement was synchronised with the tides, irrespective of the day–night cycles. Limpets rested low on the shore and were stimulated to move by the rising tide. Individuals moved up shore with the flooding tide, maintaining themselves in the awash zone, and then down shore on the ebbing tide, until they reached a resting height when the tide then fell beneath them, exhibiting ‘zonal shuttling’. A tight coupling of limpet position to tide height persisted through the changing tidal pattern, and almost all animals displayed the same organisation of activity over all tides. Initiation of activity and maximum height reached were probably controlled by the tides, but the cessation of activity may have been controlled by an internal clock. The pattern observed is consistent with the threat of attack from aquatic predators coupled with the need to minimise physical stresses while exposed. It is also consistent with the avoidance of grazing lower on the shore where interspecific competition may be more intense. Limpets showed two peaks of activity per tide, corresponding to when the rate of change of tide height was the greatest, except when tides became much reduced during the transit to a diurnal pattern. Movement was triphasic: an initial rapid phase, followed by a slower phase in the high shore and then a rapid phase before the limpets stopped moving. This structure is common in limpets and in this case is likely to be a consequence of animals maintaining themselves within the awash zone. Tide height appears to determine foraging activity, but with modifications in the behaviour in response to factors operating at more local temporal and spatial scales.


Tidal Cycle Flood Tide Diurnal Pattern Tidal Amplitude Tide Height 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



M.D. was supported by a Wain Fellowship, BBSRC, UK. We are grateful to two anonymous referees for clarifying our thinking.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark S. Davies
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Edwards
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gray A. Williams
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Health, Natural and Social SciencesUniversity of SunderlandSunderlandUK
  2. 2.Swire Institute of Marine Science, Department of Ecology and BiodiversityThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina

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