Climate shapes population variation in dogwhelk predation on foundational mussels


Trait variation among populations is important for shaping ecological dynamics. In marine intertidal systems, seawater temperature, low tide emersion temperature, and pH can drive variation in traits and affect species interactions. In western North America, Nucella dogwhelks are intertidal drilling predators of the habitat-forming mussel Mytilus californianus. Nucella exhibit local adaptation, but it is not known to what extent environmental factors and genetic structure contribute to variation in prey selectivity among populations. We surveyed drilled mussels at sites across Oregon and California, USA, and used multiple regression and Mantel tests to test the effects of abiotic factors and Nucella neutral genetic relatedness on the size of mussels drilled across sites. Our results show that Nucella at sites characterized by higher and less variable temperature and pH drilled larger mussels. Warmer temperatures appear to induce faster handling time, and more stable pH conditions may prolong opportunities for active foraging by reducing exposure to repeated stressful conditions. In contrast, there was no significant effect of genetic relatedness on prey size selectivity. Our results emphasize the role of climate in shaping marine predator selectivity on a foundation species. As coastal climates change, predator traits will respond to localized environmental conditions, changing ecological interactions.

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We thank P. Raimondi for providing expert knowledge on the study system, intellectual contributions, and assistance with statistical analyses. We thank K. Kroeker, G. Somero, S. Des Roches, and anonymous reviewers for feedback that improved the manuscript. We thank G. Bernardi for lab space and supplies for molecular analyses. We acknowledge data and support from the Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO): a long-term ecological consortium funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. We appreciate the cooperation of California State Parks, Oregon State Parks, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Bodega Marine Lab, Hopkins Marine Station, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (SCP #13169), and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (STP #19330) for permits and permission to access and collect from field sites. Finally, we thank numerous field and lab volunteers including R. Irigoyen, T. Huynh, A. Zyszczynski, C. Pickering, E. Patel, N. Egan, S. Traverso, X. Clare, and Palkovacs and Raimondi lab members including D. Fryxell and M. Moritsch. This research was supported by the Dr. Earl H. Myers and Ethel M. Myers Oceanographic and Marine Biology Trust, the Friends of the Long Marine Lab, the Science Internship Program, the American Malacological Society, the American Fisheries Society, the UCSC Future Leaders in Coastal Science grant, the UCSC Graduate Student Association, and the UCSC Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. GMC received support from the US Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need GAANN P200A150100-17 awarded by the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. KJR received support by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DEB 1556378). EPP received support from the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine Ecosystems and Climate.

Author information

GMC and EPP conceived and designed the study. GMC performed the fieldwork, lab work, and analyzed the data. KR directed genetic analyses and wrote genetic methods, results, and conclusions. GMC wrote the manuscript other authors critically evaluated the manuscript.

Correspondence to Gina M. Contolini.

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Communicated by Peter S. Petraitis.

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Contolini, G.M., Reid, K. & Palkovacs, E.P. Climate shapes population variation in dogwhelk predation on foundational mussels. Oecologia (2020) doi:10.1007/s00442-019-04591-x

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  • Intraspecific variation
  • Climate change
  • Rocky intertidal
  • Nucella
  • Mytilus