Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Understanding patterns of species richness is a major goal for ecologists, especially in space-limited habitats where many organisms live on top of others (epibiosis, e.g. by algae growing on gastropods in marine environments). We tested the hypotheses that species richness of epiflora on the gastropod Turbo torquatus would not differ between regions with similarly rich algal floras, and that epifloral richness would increase with increasing gastropod size. Macroalgal floras of Hamelin Bay (HB), Marmion (M), Jurien Bay (JB) and Kalbarri (K), Western Australia, ranged from ~20 to 40 species reef–1 (JB = HB = M ≥ K). Epiflora on small T. torquatus (shell areacm2) did not differ among regions but epifloral richness increased with increasing basibiont size. Large T. torquatus (>150 cm2) were only found in Hamelin Bay and Marmion, where epifloral richness differed substantially. Epifloral richness was positively related to basibiont size in Marmion but not in Hamelin Bay. However, densities of patellid limpets on large T. torquatus were ~4× higher in Hamelin Bay than in Marmion, implying that limpet grazing suppresses epifloral richness. Epifloral richness on turbinids is not simply associated with regional species pools or gastropod size; rather, biological interactions at the scale of individual basibionts apparently govern broad scale patterns of epibiosis.