The effect of water temperature on drilling and ingestion rates of the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus feeding on Mytilus edulis mussels in the laboratory
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In highly seasonal intertidal habitats, changes in temperature through the year may drive substantial shifts in feeding and growth rates of organisms. For the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus, attacking and consuming Mytilus edulis mussels can take hours or days, depending on temperature. Handling time of dogwhelks feeding on mussels is therefore greatly affected by ocean temperature. I recorded attack time in the laboratory, partitioned into drilling and consumption time, for juvenile dogwhelks across a range of seawater temperatures representative of field seawater temperatures during the main growing seasons of summer and autumn. The combined length of a drilling attack and subsequent ingestion time tripled across the 10 °C decline in water temperatures from July through November, driven primarily by an increase in ingestion time. The observed reduction in handling time, coupled with projected sea surface warming in New England by the end of the twenty-first century, could extend the length of the growing season for Nucella and subsequently have cascading effects on the prey community.
KeywordsDrill Hole Hydrophone Seawater Temperature Ingestion Time Mussel Shell
The author was supported by a National Science Foundation grant OCE-0727628 to G. C. Trussell. C. M. Matassa collected the whelks and mussels, M. E. Bracken provided space for the monitoring equipment. C. A. Blanchette provided the original motivation for the project, and M. Jelenic provided thoughtful discussion on monitoring feeding behavior.
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