, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 270–279 | Cite as

Life at the edge: an experimental study of a poleward range boundary

  • Sarah E. Gilman
Population Ecology


Experimental studies of biogeographic processes are important, but rarely attempted because of the logistical challenges of research at large spatial scales. I used a series of large-scale transplant experiments to investigate the mechanisms controlling species abundance near a poleward range boundary. The intertidal limpet Collisella scabra experiences a 100-fold decline in abundance over the northernmost 300 km of its range. Temperature and food supply both strongly influenced individual survival, growth, and maturation. Regression analysis also revealed significant interactions among these conditions: the effect of one could not be predicted without knowing the level of the other. But these relationships could not explain geographic abundance patterns. Instead, individual limpets were highly successful at sites with relatively low abundance. These results suggest that, even though temperature is important to the success of individual C. scabra populations, the primary effect of warming temperatures under climate change may not be a shift in geographic distribution.


Collisella scabra Macclintockia Geographic range limit Temperature Intertidal 



I gratefully acknowledge Lisa Gust, Mandene Thomas, Tim Armstrong, Audrey Chang, Mollie Boorman, Leslie Hamamoto, and Emily Kachorek for laboratory and field assistance with this project. I thank the staff of the Bodega Marine Laboratory of the University of California Davis (UCD) and of the Telonicher Marine Laboratory at Humboldt State University for allowing access to the laboratories and their resources. C. Jones provided the computer program used to extract water temperatures from data logger time series. Financial support for this research was provided by an NSF pre-doctoral fellowship and a DOE Graduate Environmental Research Fellowship to S. E. Gilman, and by NSF grant OCE-9906741 to R. Grosberg. Additional financial support was provided by the Center for Population Biology at UCD and by a Jastro-Shields Graduate Research Award from UCD. I thank R. Grosberg, J. Stachowicz, S. Gaines, D. Carlon, R. Toonen, B. Helmuth, K. Schneider, S. Berke, A. Gonzalez, and one anonymous reviewer for many helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This research was performed in partial fulfillment of a Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. All experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Evolution and Ecology, and, Center for Population BiologyUniversity of California DavisUSA
  2. 2.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesUniversity of WashingtonFriday HarborUSA

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