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Grazing effect of two Gibbula species (Mollusca, Archaeogastropoda) on the epiphytic community of Posidonia oceanica leaves

Author(s): Mazzella L, Russo GF

Abstract

The temporal and spatial patterns of the molluscs Gibbula ardens (L., 1758) and G. umbilicaris (Von Salis, 1793), which inhabit beds of Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile indicated that these species occupy well-differentiated niches. To understand better this niche differentiation, the effect of the grazing activity of the two Gibbula species (Mollusca, Archaeogastropoda) on the epiphytic community (micro- and macroglora) of P. oceanica leaves was studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

The epiphytic community differs along the leaf axis according to leaf age: the basal (youngest) part is colonized by bacteria and diatoms, ageing tissues by encrusting soft and calcareous algae, and the tips (oldest part) by an upright layer on the encrusting layer.

The large variety of periphyton components growing on the leaves represents a diversified food source for the herbivorous molluscs. G. ardens seems to prefer bacteria and diatoms, and seldom feeds on calcareous encrusting algae; G. umbilicaris seems to feed preferentially on erect macroalgae and seldom on soft encrusting species. Feeding habits are in accordance with species spatial arrangement along the leaves and the spatio-temporal distribution in the meadow.

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