Ecological interactions between abalone (Haliotis midae) juveniles and sea urchins (Parechinus angulosus), off the south-west coast of South Africa

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Field surveys were carried out in the kelp beds of the shallow subtidal off the south western Cape of South Africa, which confirmed the existence of a strong positive relationship between the urchins Parechinus angulosus and juveniles of the abalone Haliotis midae. Both species occupied primarily hard substrates, showing preferences for encrusting corallines. Of the juvenile abalone sampled, > 98% were found beneath sea urchins. All small (3-10 mm shell length) and medium sized (11-20 mm shell length) abalone juveniles occurred under urchins, whether on flat or vertical reef, or in crevices. A small proportion (approximately 10%) of large juveniles (21-35 mm shell length) were not found under urchins, and in these instances all occupied crevices instead. Subsequent surveys also revealed a positive, but weaker, association between abalone recruits (<3 mm shell length) and urchins - an unexpected result, given that abalone recruits are cryptic against the encrusting coralline substrate that they occupy preferentially. Thus camouflaged, they were assumed to gain little additional benefit from sheltering beneath urchins. Selectivity indices showed that, amongst different morphological categories of encrusting corallines, recruits showed preferences for strongly-textured corallines, such as the so-called "knobbly" and "paint" textures. Lower densities of recruits per unit substrate area were recorded on the smoother "velvet" corallines. However, almost all (80%) of recruits were found on velvet corallines occurred under urchins, as opposed to 28 and % of recruits on paint and knobbly corallines respectively.

Bibliography: 172-183.