Spondylus crassisquama Lamarck, 1819 as a microecosystem and the effects of associated macrofauna on its shell integrity: isles of biodiversity or sleeping with the enemy?
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In May 2009, we studied the bivalve Spondylus crassisquama and its relevance for macrobenthic biodiversity off the north Ecuadorian coast. We found that the large and heavy shells offer an exclusive substrate for numerous epibiont species and highly specialized carbonate-drilling endobiont species (71 species in total), which is a distinctly different and much more diverse habitat than the surrounding sandy bottoms (13 species, 4 of them found in both habitats). This is reflected by a Bray–Curtis dissimilarity index of 0.88. We discuss in detail the live habits of all 9 species of drilling endobionts that we found, and conclude that these can be seen as true mutualists, with the exception of boring sipunculids and bivalves. To further illustrate this complex co-existence, we visualize and quantify for the first time the tremendous effects of boring organisms on the shell structure of S. crassisquama by means of magnetic resonance imaging and a video appendix is provided.
KeywordsSpondylus crassisquama Ecuador Habitat complexity Macrofauna Boring organisms Nuclear magnetic resonance
This study was made possible by a full Ph.D. scholarship for A. Mackensen provided by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS), Germany. We thank Kate Clark, Anna Fricke, Bill Rudman, Ángel Valdés and Nadya Sanamyan for help during the identification process and Paulina Guarderas, Robert Lamb and Dirk Riebensahm for their assistance in the sampling dives. Stjepko Golubic and two unknown reviewers helped improving the manuscript. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment provided the permits for the collection of Spondylus individuals under No. 028 IC-FAU-DNBAPVS/MA and 015-09 IC-FAU-DNB/MA.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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