Age-dependent zonation of the periwinkle Littorina littorea (L.) in the Wadden Sea
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On sedimentary tidal flats near the island of Sylt (German Bight, North Sea) abundance and size distribution of periwinkles, Littorina littorea L., were studied in low intertidal and in shallow and deep subtidal mussel beds (Mytilus edulis L.). In low intertidal mussel beds, surveys revealed that high densities (1,369±571 m–2) of juvenile snails (≤13 mm) were positively correlated with strong barnacle epigrowth (Semibalanus balanoides L. and Balanus crenatus Bruguière) on mussels. A subsequent field experiment showed that recruitment of L. littorea was restricted to the intertidal zone. Abundances of periwinkles (213±114 m–2) and barnacles abruptly decreased in the adjacent shallow subtidal zone, which served as a habitat for older snails (>13 mm). L. littorea was completely absent from disjunct deep (5 m) subtidal mussel beds. Snail abundance varied seasonally with maxima of >4,000 m–2 in low intertidal mussel beds in October and minima in July, just before the onset of new recruitment. I suggest that the presence of cracks and crevices among the dense barnacle overgrowth in intertidal mussel beds favoured recruitment and survival of juvenile snails. Larger (older) specimens are assumed to actively migrate to the less favourable adjacent subtidal. Therefore, intertidal mussel beds are considered as nurseries for the population of L. littorea in the Wadden Sea.