Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 6, pp 1377–1386 | Cite as

Plasticity in the temporal organization of behaviour in the limpet Cellana grata

  • Giacomo SantiniEmail author
  • Avis Ngan
  • Gray A. Williams
Original Paper


The behaviour of intertidal consumers is often tightly constrained to tidal movements, although activity patterns can vary within these constraints. Spatio-temporal variability in behaviour of a limpet, Cellana grata, was analysed over different tidal conditions (spring and neap tides) and during different times of the year (one summer and one winter) at sites in Hong Kong. Activity was generally dictated by tidal movements, being concentrated when animals were awash. Plasticity in behaviour was observed, with some limpets anticipating activity during the summer period and delaying activity during winter time. Limpets were active for a time equal, or slightly less, than time awash. As the time awash exceeded ~14–16 h, however, activity duration decreased. Within this general pattern, tidal variation as well as variation among times of the year was noted, with the lowest dependence on time awash being recorded during winter neap tides. Limpets showed a slight preference for being active during nighttime, which was particularly evident when animals were emersed during the summer period. Although the basic activity in C. grata is constrained to a specific temporal window, this limpet is able to modulate its foraging strategies and resting height, according to local, daily changes in environmental conditions.


Spring Tide Activity Duration Neap Tide Selection Ratio Tidal Condition 
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.



We are grateful to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, The Government of the Hong Kong SAR for permission to work in the Cape d’Aguilar Marine Reserve. We are indebted to the many willing volunteers who helped with fieldwork and Ms. Cecily Law who provided excellent technical assistance. GS stay in Hong Kong was supported by The Department of Ecology & Biodiversity, The University of Hong Kong. F. Bulleri and two anonymous referees provided useful suggestions which greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.The Swire Institute of Marine Science and Division of Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological SciencesThe University of Hong KongHong Kong SARPeople’s Republic of China

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