Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 8, Issue 10, pp 1295–1318 | Cite as

Are there adequate data to assess how well theories of rarity apply to marine invertebrates?

  • M.G. Chapman


Understanding the biology of rare species is a very important part of conservation biology. Most of our current understanding of rarity has, however, come from studies of terrestrial plants, birds, mammals and some insects. Freshwater and marine habitats are underrepresented in published studies of rare species or conservation biology. We therefore have little knowledge about how well our understanding of what makes particular species rare and how rare species persist applies to marine invertebrates which form a major component of coastal biodiversity. In this review, I examine some theories about rarity with respect to intertidal and shallow subtidal invertebrates to identify whether there are adequate data to apply these theories to marine invertebrates and how well such theories apply. The general conclusions are that the lack of quantitative data on abundances, ranges, habitat-requirements, dispersal and connectedness among populations for marine invertebrates means that their status as rare species cannot really be assessed appropriately. It is also unlikely that, without extensive sampling programmes and considerable expense, adequate data could be obtained for these small, cryptic animals, which typically have very patchy, variable and unpredictable patterns of distribution and abundance. Intertidal and subtidal assemblages are diverse, including species with many different life-histories from many phyla, occupying the same suite of habitats. It is therefore suggested that future research on rare organisms in marine habitats should build upon the long and successful history of experimental marine studies to test specific hypotheses about processes influencing rarity in the field. Such studies would not only add a new dimension to our current understanding of rarity, but would also provide badly-needed data on the status of rare marine invertebrates. abundances, invertebrates, marine, range, rarity

abundances invertebrates marine range rarity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen JD and Flecker AS (1993) Biodiversity conservation in running waters. BioScience 43: 32–43Google Scholar
  2. Allendorf FW and Leary RF (1986) Heterozygosity and fitness in natural populations of animals. In: Soulé ME (ed) Conservation Biology: The Sciences of Scarcity and Diversity, pp 57–76. Sinauer Assoc. Inc., Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson DT, White BN and Egan EA (1976) The larval development and metamorphosis of the Ascidians Pyura praeputialis (Heller) and Pachydermatina pleurogona (Herdman), family Pyuridae. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. 100: 205–217Google Scholar
  4. Angermeier PL (1995) Ecological attributes of extinction-prone species: loss of freshwater fishes of Virginia. Conserv. Biol. 9: 143–158Google Scholar
  5. Arita HT (1993) Rarity in neotropical bats: correlations with phylogeny, diet, and body mass. Ecol. Appl. 3: 506–517Google Scholar
  6. Arita HT, Robinson JG and Redford KH (1990) Rarity in Neotropical forest mammals and its ecological correlates. Conserv. Biol. 4: 181–192Google Scholar
  7. Blackburn TM and Gaston KJ (1996) Spatial patterns in the geographic range sizes of bird species in the New World. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 351: 897–912Google Scholar
  8. Blackburn TM and Lawton JH (1994) Population abundance and body size in animal assemblages. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 343: 33–39Google Scholar
  9. Blackburn TM, Lawton JH and Pimm SL (1993) Non-metabolic explanations for the relationship between body size and animal abundance. J. Anim. Ecol. 62: 694–702Google Scholar
  10. Brown JH (1984) On the relationship between abundance and distribution of species. Am. Nat. 124: 255–279Google Scholar
  11. Brown JH and Kodric-Brown A (1977) Turnover rates in insular biogeography: effect of immigration on extinction. Ecology 58: 445–449Google Scholar
  12. Carlton JT (1993) Neoextinctions of marine invertebrates. Am. Zool. 33: 499–509Google Scholar
  13. Caughley G (1994) Directions in conservation biology. J. Anim. Ecol. 63: 215–244Google Scholar
  14. Caughley G and Gunn A (1996) Conservation Biology in Theory and Practice. Blackwell Science, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  15. Chapman MG (1994) Small-scale patterns of distribution and size-structure of the intertidal littorinid, Littorina unifasciata (Gastropoda: Littorinidae) in New South Wales. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwater Res. 45: 635–642Google Scholar
  16. Chapman MG (1995) Aggregation of the littorinid snail Littorina unifasciata in New South Wales, Australia. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 126: 191–202Google Scholar
  17. Chapman MG and Underwood AJ (1996) Experiments on effects of sampling biota under intertidal and shallow subtidal boulders. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 207: 103–126Google Scholar
  18. Clark KB (1994) Ascoglossan (= Saccoglossan) molluscs in the Florida keys: rare marine invertebrates at special risk. Bull. Mar. Sci. 54: 900–916Google Scholar
  19. Clarke KR (1993) Non-parametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Aust. J. Ecol. 18: 117–143Google Scholar
  20. Comins HN and Noble IR (1985) Dispersal, variability and transient niches: species coexistence in a uniformly variable environment. Am. Nat. 126: 706–723Google Scholar
  21. Connell JH (1985) Variation and persistence of rocky shore populations. In: Moore PG and Seed R (eds) The Ecology of Rocky Coasts, pp 57–69. Hodder & Stoughton, LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Connell JH and Sousa WP (1983) On the evidence needed to judge ecological stability or persistence. Am. Nat. 121: 789–824Google Scholar
  23. Connor EF and Simberloff D (1978) Species number and compositional similarity of the Galápagos flora and avifauna. Ecol. Monogr. 48: 219–248Google Scholar
  24. Dayton PK (1984) Processes structuring some marine communities: are they general? In: Strong DR Jr, Simberloff D, Abele LG and Thistle AB (eds) Ecological Communities: Conceptual Issues and the Evidence, pp 181–197. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  25. Den Boer PJ (1968) Spreading of risk and stabilization of animal numbers. Acta Biotheor. 18: 165–194Google Scholar
  26. Diamond JM (1984) Historic extinctions: a Rosetta Stone for understanding prehicstoric extinctions. In: Martin PS and Klein RG (eds) Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Evolution, pp 824–862. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZGoogle Scholar
  27. Drury WH (1980) Rare species of plants. Rhodora 82: 3–48Google Scholar
  28. Fairweather PG (1985) Differential predation on alternative prey, and the survival of rocky intertidal organisms in New South Wales. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 89: 135–156Google Scholar
  29. Fairweather PG (1988a) Predation can increase variability in the abundance of prey on seashores. Oikos 53: 87–92Google Scholar
  30. Fairweather PG (1988b) Consequences of supply-side ecology: manipulating the recruitment of intertidal barnacles affects the predation upon them. Biol. Bull. Mar. Biol. Lab., Woods Hole 175: 349–354Google Scholar
  31. Fairweather PG (1990) Ecological changes due to our use of the coast: research needs versus efforts. Proc. Ecol. Soc. Aust. 16: 71–77Google Scholar
  32. Fairweather PG (1991) A conceptual framework for ecological studies of coastal resources: an example of a tunicate collected for bait on Australian seashores. Ocean Shore. Man. 15: 125–142Google Scholar
  33. Flessa KW, Erben HK, Hallam A, Hsu KJ, Jablonski D, Raup DM, Seploski JJ Jr, Soulé ME, Sousa W, Stinnesbeck W and Vermeij GJ (1986) Mass extinctions, extinction events, and background extinctions. In: Raup DM and Jablonski D (eds) Patterns and Processes in the History of Life, pp 235–257. Springer-Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  34. Fletcher WJ (1987) Interactions among subtidal Australian sea urchins, gastropods and algae: effects of experimental removals. Ecol. Monogr. 57: 89–109Google Scholar
  35. Fromentin JM, Ibanez F, Dauvin JC, Dewarumez JM and Elkaim B (1997) Long-term changes of four macrobenthic assemblages from 1978 to 1992. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK 77: 287–310Google Scholar
  36. Garrity SD and Levings SC (1984) Aggregation in a tropical neritid. Veliger 27: 1–6Google Scholar
  37. Gaston KJ (1994) Rarity. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  38. Gaston KJ (1996) The multiple forms of the interspecific abundance-distribution relationship. Oikos 76: 211–220Google Scholar
  39. Gaston KJ (1998) Species range-size distributions: products of speciation, extinction and transformation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 353: 219–230Google Scholar
  40. Gaston KJ and McArdle BH (1993) Measurement of variation in the size of populations in space and time: some points of clarification. Oikos 68: 357–360Google Scholar
  41. Gaston KJ and McArdle BH (1994) The temporal variability of animal abundances: measures, methods and patterns. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 345: 335–358Google Scholar
  42. Gee JM and Warwick RM (1994) Body-size distribution in a marine metazoan community and the fractal dimensions of macroalgae. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 178: 247–259Google Scholar
  43. Gray JS, Aschan M, Carr MR, Clarke KR, Green RH, Pearson TH, Rosenberg R and Warwick RM (1988) Analysis of community attributes of the benthic macrofauna of Frierfjord/Langesundfjord and in a mesocosm experiment. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 46: 151–165Google Scholar
  44. Hall BP and Moreau RM (1962) A study of rare birds of Africa. Bull. Br. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Zool. 8: 313–378Google Scholar
  45. Hallam A (1976) Stratigraphic distribution and ecology of European Jurassic bivalves. Lethaia 9: 245–260Google Scholar
  46. Hanski I (1991) Single-species metapopulation dynamics: concepts, models and observations. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 42: 17–38Google Scholar
  47. Hawkes MW (1991) Seaweeds of British Colombia: biodiversity, ecology, and conservation status. Can. Biodivers. 1: 4–11Google Scholar
  48. Hayward TL and McGowan JA (1979) Pattern and structure in an oceanic planktonic community. Am. Zool. 19: 1045–1055Google Scholar
  49. Hodgson JG (1993) Commonness and rarity in British butterflies. J. Appl. Ecol. 30: 407–427Google Scholar
  50. Howard RK and Edgar GJ (1994) Seagrass meadows. In: Hammond LS and Synnot RN (eds) Marine Biology, pp 257–271. Longman Cheshire Pty Ltd., Melbourne, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  51. Irish KE and Norse EA (1996) Scant emphasis on marine biodiversity. Conserv. Biol. 10: 680Google Scholar
  52. Jackson JBC (1984) Ecology of cryptic coral reef communities. III. Abundance and aggregation of encrusting organisms with particular reference to cheilostome bryozoa. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 75: 37–57Google Scholar
  53. Johannes RE and Hatcher BG (1986) Shallow tropical marine environments. In: Soulé ME (ed) Conservation Biology: The Sciences of Scarcity and Diversity, pp 371–382. Sinauer Assoc. Inc., Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  54. Johannesson K (1988) The paradox of Rockall: why is a brooding gastropod (Littorina saxatilis) more widespread than one having a planktonic larval stage. Mar. Biol. 99: 507–514Google Scholar
  55. Karr JR (1977) Ecological correlates of rarity in a tropical bird community. Auk 94: 240–247Google Scholar
  56. Kattan GH (1992) Rarity and vulnerability: the birds of the Cordillera Central of Columbia. Conserv. Biol. 6: 64–70Google Scholar
  57. Koopowitz H, Thornhill AD and Anderson M (1994) A general stochastic model for the prediction of biodiversity losses based on habitat conversion. Conserv. Biol. 8: 425–438Google Scholar
  58. Kunin WE and Gaston KJ (1993) The Biology of Rarity: Patterns, Causes and Consequences. TREE 8: 298–301Google Scholar
  59. Kunin WE and Gaston KJ (1997) The Biology of Rarity: Causes and Consequences of Rare-common Differences. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  60. Lawton JH (1989) What is the relationship between population density and body size in animals. Oikos 55: 422–429Google Scholar
  61. Lawton JH (1994) Population dynamic principles. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Series B 344: 61–68Google Scholar
  62. Lewin R (1986) Supply side ecology. Science 234: 25–27Google Scholar
  63. Mapstone BD, Underwood AJ and Creese RG (1984) Experimental analysis of the commensal relation between intertidal gastropods Patelloida mufria and the trochid Austrocochlea constricta. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 17: 85–100Google Scholar
  64. Marquet PA, Navarette SA and Castilla JC (1995) Body size, population density, and the energetic equivalency rule. J. Anim. Ecol. 64: 325–332Google Scholar
  65. McArdle BH and Gaston KJ (1992) Comparing population variables. Oikos 64: 610–612Google Scholar
  66. McArdle BH and Gaston KJ (1993) The temporal variability of populations. Oikos 67: 187–191Google Scholar
  67. McArdle BH, Gaston KJ and Lawton JH (1990) Variation in the size of animal populations: patterns, problems and artefacts. J. Anim. Ecol. 59: 439–454Google Scholar
  68. Menge BA (1978) Predator intensity in a rocky intertidal community: effect of a canopy, wave action and desiccation on predator feeding rates. Oecologia (Berl.) 34: 17–35Google Scholar
  69. Menge BA, Lubchenco J and Ashkenas LR (1985) Diversity, heterogeneity and consumer pressure in a tropical rocky intertidal community. Oecologia (Berl.) 65: 394–405Google Scholar
  70. Moran MJ (1985) The timing and significance of sheltering and foraging behaviour of the predatory gastropod Morula marginalba Blainville (Muricidae). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 93: 103–114Google Scholar
  71. Morrisey DJ, Underwood AJ and Howitt L (1993) Scales of spatial patchiness in the distribution of marine soft sediment faunas. In: Battershill CN, Schiel DR, Jones GP, Creese RG and MacDiarmid AB (eds) Proceedings of the Second International Temperate Reef Symposium, pp 107–113. NIWA Marine, Wellington, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  72. Morrisey DJ, Underwood AJ, Howitt L and Stark JS (1992) Temporal variation in soft-sediment benthos. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 164: 233–245Google Scholar
  73. Navarette SA and Menge BA (1997) The body size-population density relationships in tropical rocky intertidal communities. J. Anim. Ecol. 66: 557–566Google Scholar
  74. New TR (1993) Angels on a pin: dimensions of the crisis in invertebrate conservation. Am. Zool. 33: 623–630Google Scholar
  75. Rabinowitz D (1981) Seven forms of rarity. In: Synge H (ed) The Biological Aspects of Rare Plant Conservation, pp 205–217. John Wiley and Sons, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  76. Rabinowitz D, Cairns S and Dillon T (1986) Seven forms of rarity and their frequence in the flora of the Britsih Isles. In: Soulé ME (ed) Conservation Biology: The Sciences of Scarcity and Diversity, pp 205–217. Sinauer Assoc. Inc., Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  77. Rabinowitz D, Rapp JK and Dixon PM (1984) Competitive abilities of sparse grass species: means of persistence or cause of abundance. Ecology 65: 1144–1154Google Scholar
  78. Russell MP and Lindberg DR (1988) Real and random patterns associated with molluscan spatial and temporal distributions. Paleobiology 14: 322–330Google Scholar
  79. Sadlier RA and Pressey RL (1994) Reptiles and amphibians of particular conservation concern in the western division of NSW: a preliminary review. Biol. Conserv. 69: 41–54Google Scholar
  80. Saetersdal M (1994) Rarity and species/area relationships of vascular plants in deciduous woods, western Norway – applications to nature reserve selection. Ecography 17: 25–38Google Scholar
  81. Sanderson WG (1996) Rarity of marine benthic species in Great Britain: development and application of assessment criteria. Aquat. Conserv. 6: 245–256Google Scholar
  82. Scheltema RS (1986) On dispersal and planktonic larvae of benthic invertebrates: an eclectic overview and summary of problems. Bull. Mar. Sci. 39: 290–322Google Scholar
  83. Schoener TW (1987) The geographical distribution of rarity. Oecologia (Berl.) 74: 161–173Google Scholar
  84. Shepherd SA and Davies M (1997) Marine invertebrates of Southern Australia Part III. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences) Adelaide, South Australia, in conjunction with the Flora and Fauna of South Australia Handbooks CommitteeGoogle Scholar
  85. Simberloff D (1988) The contribution of population and community biology to conservation science. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 19: 473–511Google Scholar
  86. Sisk TD, Launer AE, Switky KR and Ehrlich PR (1994) Identifying extinction threats. BioScience 44: 592–604Google Scholar
  87. Soulé ME (1986) Conservation biology. the sciences of scarcity and diversity. Sinauer Assoc. Inc., Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  88. Sousa WP (1984) Intertidal mosaics: patch size, propagule availability, and spatially variable patterns of succession. Ecology 65: 1918–1935Google Scholar
  89. Spight TM(1975) Factors extending gastropod embryonic development and their selective cost. Oecologia (Berl.) 21: 1–16Google Scholar
  90. Thomas CD and Mallorie HC (1985) Rarity, species richness and conservation: butterflies of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Biol. Conserv. 33: 95–115Google Scholar
  91. Thompson SK (1990) Adaptive cluster sampling. J. Am. Stat. Ass. 85: 1050–1059Google Scholar
  92. Thorson G (1950) Reproduction and larval ecology of marine bottom invertebrates. Biol. Rev. 25: 1–45Google Scholar
  93. Underwood AJ (1981) Structure of a rocky intertidal community in New South Wales: patterns of vertical distribution and seasonal change. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 51: 57–85Google Scholar
  94. Underwood AJ (1986) The analysis of competition by field experiments. In: Kikkawa J and Anderson DJ (eds) Community Ecology: Pattern and Process, pp 240–268. Blackwell Scientific Press, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  95. Underwood AJ (1992) Competition and marine plant-animal interactions. In: John DM, Hawkins SJ and Price JH (eds) Plant–Animal Interactions in the Marine Benthos, pp 443–475. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  96. Underwood AJ (1993) Field experiments in intertidal ecology. In: Battershill CN, Schiel DR, Jones GP, Creese RG and MacDiarmid AB (eds) Proceedings of the Second International Temperate Reef Symposium, pp 7–13. NIWA Marine, Wellington, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  97. Underwood AJ (1996) Spatial patterns of variance in density of intertidal populations. In: Floyd RB, Sheppard AW and De Barro PJ (eds) Frontiers of Population Ecology, pp 369–389. CSIRO Publishers, Victoria, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  98. Underwood AJ (1997) Experiments in Ecology: Their Logical Design and Interpretation Using Analysis of Variance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  99. Underwood AJ (in press) History and recruitment in the structure of intertidal assemblages on rocky shores. In: Whitfield M (ed) Aquatic Life Cycle Strategies. Institute of Biology, LondonGoogle Scholar
  100. Underwood AJ and Chapman MG (1996) Scales of spatial patterns of distribution of intertidal invertebrates. Oecologia (Berl.) 107: 212–224Google Scholar
  101. Underwood AJ and Chapman MG (1998) Spatial analyses of intertidal assemblages on sheltered rocky shores. Aust. J. Ecol. 23: 138–157Google Scholar
  102. Underwood AJ and Denley EJ (1984) Paradigms, explanations, and generalizations in models for the structure of intertidal communities on rocky shores. In: Strong DR, Simberloff D, Abele LG and Thistle AB (eds) Ecological Communities: Conceptual Issues and the Evidence, pp 151–180. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  103. Underwood AJ and Fairweather PG (1989) Supply-side ecology and benthic marine assemblages. TREE 4: 16–20Google Scholar
  104. Usher MB (1986) Wildlife conservation evaluation: atributes, criteria and values. In: Usher MB (ed) Wildlife Conservation Evaluation, pp 3–44. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  105. Van Tienderen PH (1991) Evolution of generalists and specialists in spatially heterogeneous environments. Evolution 45: 1317–1331Google Scholar
  106. Vermeij GJ (1993) Biogeography of recently extinct marine species: implications for conservation. Conserv. Biol. 7: 391–397Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • M.G. Chapman
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, Marine Ecology Laboratories A11University of SydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations