Selective settlement of the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides (L.) facilitates its growth and reproduction on mussel beds in the Wadden Sea
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On the unstable sedimentary tidal flats of the Wadden Sea, a suitable attachment substrate for sessile organisms is generally lacking. Epibenthic mussel beds (Mytilus edulis L.) provide the only and strongly limited settlement sites available for the barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides (L.). Field investigations showed that barnacles were non-randomly distributed within a mussel bed. They preferentially occurred near the siphonal apertures of living mussels but rarely grew on dead mussels or shell fragments. Field experiments revealed that this was due to selective settlement of barnacle cyprid larvae. Growth of barnacles was significantly higher upon living mussels than on empty mussel shells. Moreover, a higher reproductive output was obtained by individuals on living mussels which produced twice as many nauplii larvae than barnacles attached to empty shells. This study shows that selective settlement of S. balanoides cyprid larvae on living mussels is adaptive with respect to individual fitness.