Latitudinal incidence of phototrophic shell-degrading endoliths and their effects on mussel bed microclimates
Aggregations of organisms commonly benefit their members by mitigating the effects of predators and environmental stresses. Mussel aggregations also form important intertidal matrices that support associated infaunal communities, the structures of which are largely shaped by the conditions within the interstitial spaces. Intertidal mussels are frequently parasitized by phototrophic endoliths that infest the shell and have thermoregulatory effects on both solitary and aggregated mussels by changing shell albedo. A large-scale sampling was carried out May–June 2016 along Portuguese and Moroccan shores to investigate a latitudinal gradient of endolithic infestation of the intertidal mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Endolithic infestation increased towards lower latitudes most likely as a response of greater light availability. Additionally, artificial beds of either 100% non-infested or infested biomimetic mussels were used to test whether infestation alters the temperature and humidity of the interstitial spaces within beds, and if mussels surrounded by infested mussels experience lower body temperatures than those surrounded by non-infested ones. Conditions within beds of infested mussels were significantly cooler and more humid than in non-infested beds and individuals in the centre of infested mussel beds experienced significantly lower body temperatures. Under a scenario of warming climate, endolithic infestation of mussel beds might thus represent an ecological advantage not only for M. galloprovincialis as a species but also for the associated communities.
KeywordsShell Length Mussel Shell Lower Body Temperature Intertidal Mussel Intertidal Organism
This research was funded by projects UID/Multi/04326/2013 and IF/01413/2014/CP1217/CT0004 from the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT-MEC, Portugal) and supported by the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation and a scholarship from the South African National Research Foundation (NRF). We would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments, which helped us to improve the manuscript. We are grateful to R. Silva and P. Madeira for laboratory assistance.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The research was carried out following the applicable international, and/or institutional guidelines for the sampling and transport of the species.
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