Navigation Links
Grazing snails rule the waves
Date:5/31/2012

Coral reefs and seashores largely look the way they do because large fish and urchins eat most of the seaweed that might otherwise cover them, but a major new study has found that the greatest impact of all comes from an unexpected quarter small marine snails.

The study published in the journal Ecology Letters is the largest of its kind ever undertaken into the ecological impacts of marine grazing animals: it was led by Associate Professor Alistair Poore, of the UNSW Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, who worked with an international team of 10 researchers.

It found that, on average, marine herbivores remove almost 70% of the plant material growing on the sea floor an effect far greater than grazing animals have on land plants.

"We found that across the globe marine herbivores profoundly reduce the abundance of marine plants, with the strongest effects in rocky seashores," says Poore.

"Icons like the Great Barrier Reef would look very different otherwise: the corals and rocks are usually free of seaweed, but that's only because animals eat all the plants as soon as they grow.

"Big animals such as fish and urchins have major impacts on reefs and kelp forests but what may surprise many people is that we found that the strongest impacts of all were snails controlling seaweeds on rocky shores."

The study team analysed results from over 600 experiments, conducted over the past 40 years across the planet, where ecologists have experimentally removed herbivores to understand their importance in structuring marine habitats.

Manipulating animals in their natural habitats is the most powerful technique to understand how ecological interactions work, they note.

"When these grazing animals are removed, the seaweeds quickly start to dominate," notes Poore. "One of the exercises we give our students to illustrate this is to visit a rocky shore at Sydney's Maroubra Beach and remove all the snails from a selected area. When we return a few weeks later, the rocks are covered in green seaweed."

Of particular interest to ecologists is the team's finding that the global data set rejects the long-standing idea that herbivores in the sea and on land have stronger impacts on plants in the tropics.

"For decades, ecologists have believed that biological interactions like predation or herbivory are more intense in the tropics compared to temperate areas," says Poore. "But we found no evidence of stronger herbivory close to the equator, nor increased herbivore impacts with increased temperature. Despite expectations, grazing on coral reefs did not have larger impacts than in several other marine habitats."

The study also found that in some ways, marine plants are winning the long evolutionary battle with their herbivores. Some groups of seaweeds and seagrasses can avoid herbivore damage with the help of chemical or physical defences or because they are poor quality food.


'/>"/>

Contact: Bob Beale
bbeale@unsw.edu.au
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Grazing management effects on stream pollutants
2. AgriLife research: Multi-paddock grazing is superior to continuous grazing
3. Grazing as a conservation tool
4. SU biologist partners with National Park Service to study bison grazing in Yellowstone
5. How grazing lands influence greenhouse gas
6. ARS scientists study effects of grazing on grouse habitat
7. Alperujo -- a beneficial complement in diet of dairy sheep during non-grazing periods
8. Grazing animals help spread plant disease
9. Sea snails help scientists explore a possible way to enhance memory
10. In bubble-rafting snails, the eggs came first
11. Research into molluscan phylogeny reveals deep animal relationship of snails and mussels
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/7/2016)... 2016   Veridium , a leader in ... new CEO James Stickland . Stickland, a ... experience, has served in senior executive roles for ... in expanding a pipeline of venture capital and ... recently served as managing director of U.K.-based fintech ...
(Date:12/5/2016)... Dec. 5, 2016  The Office of Justice ... "Can CT Scans Enhance or Replace Medico Legal ... of supporting or replacing forensic autopsies with postmortem ... In response to recommendations made by ... using CT scans as a potential component of ...
(Date:11/30/2016)... 2016  higi SH llc (higi) announced today ... national brands, industry thought-leaders and celebrity influencers looking ... for taking steps to live healthier, more active ... higi has built the largest self-screening health station ... people who have conducted over 185 million biometric ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/8/2016)... 8, 2016 Eurofins announces the appointment of Sean ... Eurofins Scientific Inc. (ESI). Mr. Murray will bring ... and entrepreneurial experience in leading international business teams. As the National ... market to uphold Eurofins, status as the global leader in bio-analytical ... , , ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Dec. 8, 2016  Anaconda BioMed S.L., a pre-clinical ... the next generation neuro-thrombectomy system for the treatment of ... G. Jovin, MD to join its Scientific Advisory Board ... strategic network of scientific and clinical experts to Anaconda ... the ANCD BRAIN ® to its clinical phase. ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... 2016  Soligenix, Inc. (OTCQB: SNGX) (Soligenix or ... developing and commercializing products to treat rare diseases ... today the long-term follow-up data from its Phase ... Innate Defense Regulator (IDR), in the treatment of ... patients undergoing chemoradiation therapy (CRT).  The additional 12-month ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... 2016  Partnering to fuel Philadelphia,s ... of Southeastern Pennsylvania (" Ben ... of Independence Blue Cross; and Safeguard Scientifics ("Safeguard") (NYSE: ... a $6 million funding initiative over a four year ... Responding to a burgeoning economic vitality in digital health, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: