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Huddling up in a dry environment the physiological benefits of aggregation in an intertidal gastropod



Huddling up in a dry environment the physiological benefits of aggregation in an intertidal gastropod



Marine Biology 160(5): 1119-1126



In many intertidal gastropods, the formation of aggregations and closing of the opercular opening are behaviors commonly assumed to be associated with water conservation and maintenance of body temperature during tidal emersion periods. In the laboratory, we quantified the relationship between these two behaviors in a littorinid snail common to the north-central shores of Chile, Echinolittorina peruviana, and evaluated any benefit of these behaviors during desiccating conditions. We predicted that solitary individuals would maintain their opercula open for less time than aggregated snails when exposed to drier conditions due, at least in part, to differences in evaporative water loss. In laboratory trials, where relative humidity was manipulated, we observed that aggregated snails maintained their opercula open for longer periods of time than solitary snails under increasingly drier conditions. These results, together with observations of body temperature, suggest that aggregated animals may able to maintain gaseous exchange with their environment for longer periods of time than solitary individuals in response to desiccation stress. Our results suggest an interactive effect of two behaviors that confer physiological benefits when confronted with extreme physical conditions experienced during periods of emersion.

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Accession: 036705188

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DOI: 10.1007/s00227-012-2164-6


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