Dietary shift in corallivorous Drupella snails following a major bleaching event at Koh Tao, Gulf of Thailand

Abstract

The island Koh Tao in the western Gulf of Thailand suffered severe coral bleaching in 2010. Its mushroom coral fauna of 20 species was surveyed during the bleaching in 2010 and after the bleaching in 2011. Multi-species assemblages of free-living mushroom corals occurred around the island, two of which were invaded by corallivorous Drupella snails after the bleaching. Previously these gastropods were known to mainly consume branching corals and hardly any mushroom corals. The snails were found preying on four fungiid species, three of which were susceptible to bleaching. The dietary shift became apparent after populations of preferred prey species (Acroporidae and Pocilloporidae) had died during the bleaching event. It seems that bleaching mortality reduced the availability of preferred prey, causing the corallivores to switch to less preferred species that occur in dense aggregations.

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Acknowledgments

The first author received a research grant from the Treub Maatschappij. He is grateful for logistic support offered by Jennifer Matthews of Big Blue Conservation. Nathan Cook of Eco Koh Tao and Devrim Zahir of New Heaven Dive School helped the second author by collecting coral mortality data. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive remarks.

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Correspondence to B. W. Hoeksema.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Hugh Sweatman

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Hoeksema, B.W., Scott, C. & True, J.D. Dietary shift in corallivorous Drupella snails following a major bleaching event at Koh Tao, Gulf of Thailand. Coral Reefs 32, 423–428 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-012-1005-x

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Keywords

  • Coral aggregations
  • Coral bleaching
  • Corallivory
  • Mushroom corals
  • Predation