Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 631–637 | Cite as

Tidal height, rather than habitat selection for conspecifics, controls settlement in mussels

  • Francesca PorriEmail author
  • Gerardo I. Zardi
  • Christopher D. McQuaid
  • Sarah Radloff
Research Article


Settlement is a major determinant of intertidal populations. However, the energy costs of lost larvae are very high. Accordingly, arrival and attachment on suitable substrata are essential requirements for species’ survival. On the intertidal, the presence of cues left by adult or juvenile conspecifics could be vital for the successful establishment of larvae arriving on the shore. Two mussel species, the indigenous Perna perna and the invasive Mytilus galloprovincialis, co-occur on the lower eulittoral zone on the south coast of South Africa. P.perna dominates the low and M. galloprovincialis the high mussel zones, with co-existence in the mid mussel zone. This study tested the hypothesis of settlement selectivity for conspecifics in these two mussel species, to understand whether the final adult distribution of mussels on the shores is determined by active behavioural and chemical mechanisms. Preferential selection by larvae for conspecifics was tested in the field during the peak settlement period in 2004 in natural mussel beds across zones and through manipulative experiments in the mid-zone where the species co-exist. On natural beds, settlement was determined by counts of settlers attached over 48 h onto artificial collectors. Collectors were placed on beds of P. perna and M. galloprovincialis present at both high- and low-adult densities, as well as in mixed beds. On such natural beds, settlers of both species consistently favored low-zone P. perna beds. Settlement patterns over 24 h onto experimentally created mussel patches consisting of P.perna, M. galloprovincialis or the two species combined beds, set in the mixed zone, did not conform with the results of the natural beds study: settlers of both species settled with no discrimination among different patches. The results indicate that mussels, which are sedentary, lack attraction to conspecifics at settlement. This highlights the importance of tidal height in setting settlement rates, and of post-settlement events in shaping populations of these broadcast spawners.


Perna Tidal Height Large Settler Mussel Species Small Settler 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by funding from the Claude Leon Foundation and Marine and Coastal Management of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of South Africa. Many thanks go to D. Stoloff and K. R. Nicastro for their assistance in the field and to M. Villet and J. Erlandsson for discussion on the analysis of data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Porri
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gerardo I. Zardi
    • 1
  • Christopher D. McQuaid
    • 1
  • Sarah Radloff
    • 2
  1. 1.Coastal Research Group, Department of Zoology and EntomologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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