Breeding, planktonic and settlement factors shape recruitment patterns of one of the last remaining major population of Pinna nobilis within Spanish waters

  • Patricia PradoEmail author
  • Karl B. Andree
  • Sergio Trigos
  • Noelia Carrasco
  • Nuno Caiola
  • Jose Rafael García-March
  • José Tena
  • Margarita Fernández-Tejedor
  • Francesca Carella
Primary Research Paper


The pen shell, Pinna nobilis L., is a critically endangered bivalve threatened by mass mortality events throughout the Mediterranean, but the Alfacs Bay (Ebro Delta) still hosts many healthy individuals. Herein, we study the main factors controlling recruitment patterns in this locality, including gonadal development and abundance of critical life-stages, as well as the effect of environmental factors. Growth records from empty shells suggested a single major peak of recruitment during a period of 11 years, although many juveniles were found in two very shallow sand bars possibly acting as a barrier for water circulation and as a trap for larvae. Collectors deployed outside these sand bar areas showed zero settlers, and the availability of planktonic larvae was very low. Gonadal examination evidenced breeding throughout the summer period with successive hermaphroditism, but 20% of individuals were simultaneous hermaphrodites, a condition that has been associated with environmental stress and that could lead to in-breeding depression and potentially reduced fertility. Yet, given the large size of the population and the wide breeding period observed, planktonic processes causing larval mortality such as freshwater discharges from rice locally important rice agriculture are also proposed as possible impacts accounting for patterns of low larval availability.


Larval availability Anomalous simultaneous hermaphroditism Agricultural pollution Salinity Habitat features Parasites Western Mediterranean 



The authors thank the Zoo Barcelona Foundation for an Antoni Jonch grant 2015. JR García-March and J Tena were funded by the Albert II of Monaco Foundation to develop the age study within the project “The study, protection and possible breeding of the pen shell (P. nobilis) in the Boka Kotorska Bay”. Additional funding was obtained from a 2017 INIA Grant for project EMERGER (E-RTA2015-00004-00-00). We thank Department of Territory and Sustainability for granting us a permit for the collection of P. nobilis (Ref.: SF/030). Environmental factors were obtained from the project “Programa de seguiment de la qualitat de les aigües, mol·luscs i fitoplancton toxic les zones de producció de marics del litoral català de la DGPAM”. IRTA acknowledges support from the CERCA Program from the Catalonian Government. Authors thank Dr. Miguel Alonso García-Amilivia for help with the separation of bivalve larvae, and Pep Cabanes, Lluis Jornet, and Jose Luis Costa for fieldwork assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Prado
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karl B. Andree
    • 1
  • Sergio Trigos
    • 2
  • Noelia Carrasco
    • 1
  • Nuno Caiola
    • 1
  • Jose Rafael García-March
    • 3
  • José Tena
    • 3
  • Margarita Fernández-Tejedor
    • 1
  • Francesca Carella
    • 4
  1. 1.IRTA-Sant Carles de la RàpitaSant Carles de la RàpitaSpain
  2. 2.Innovation Network in Aquaculture Industries of the Valencian Community (RIIA-CV)ValenciaSpain
  3. 3.Institute of Environment and Marine Science Research (IMEDMAR)Universidad Católica de Valencia SVMCalpeSpain
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of Naples Federico IINaplesItaly

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