, Volume 641, Issue 1, pp 45–57 | Cite as

Microhabitat use and prey selection of the coral-feeding snail Drupella cornus in the northern Red Sea

  • Verena Schoepf
  • Jürgen Herler
  • Martin Zuschin
Primary research paper


Corallivorous gastropods of the genus Drupella are known for population outbreaks throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Despite their potential to destroy wide areas of coral reef, prey preferences have never been analyzed with respect to prey availability, and juvenile ecology and food selectivity remain largely unknown. Here, the influence of water depth, coral abundance, colony shape, prey species, and intraspecific attraction among snails on distribution patterns, prey selection, and microhabitat use of D. cornus was studied in the northern Red Sea. Special emphasis was put on ontogenetic differences. The snails were most abundant in the shallowest reef zone (1 m depth). Adults were associated with several substrates and coral growth forms, whereas juveniles were highly cryptic and restricted to live branching corals. The genus Acropora was significantly preferred over other acroporid and pocilloporid corals. As revealed by resource selection ratios, Acropora acuminata was preferred by juveniles, A. selago by adults. In aquarium experiments, intraspecific attraction was high among both life stages. Overall, significant differences in juvenile and adult microhabitat and prey use suggest that juveniles have more specific habitat requirements, and indicate ecological impacts on coral communities different from that of adults. Prey preferences seem to depend on both coral genus and colony shape. Acropora corals provide the best combination of food and shelter and therefore determine distribution patterns of D. cornus.


Corallivory Resource selection Acroporids Ontogenetic habitat shift Intraspecific attraction Juveniles 



We thank Moustafa Fouda (Nature Conservation Section of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency) and Ayman Mabrouk (Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area) for research permissions, Andy Tischer and Hans Lange (both Dahab Marine Research Center, DiveIn) for logistic support. Michael Stachowitsch provided helpful comments on a former version of this article. The study was funded by a grant of the University of Innsbruck to VS. JH was supported by an APART-grant (Austrian Programme for Advanced Research and Technology) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and MZ by project P19013-B17 of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Verena Schoepf
    • 1
  • Jürgen Herler
    • 2
  • Martin Zuschin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Marine Biology, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Theoretical Biology, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.Department of Palaeontology, GeocenterUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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