Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 6, pp 1215–1225 | Cite as

Variation in life-history traits of the corallivorous gastropod Coralliophila abbreviata on three coral hosts

  • Lyza JohnstonEmail author
  • Margaret W. Miller
Research Article


Coralliophila abbreviata (Lamarck) is a corallivorous gastropod that lives and feeds on several species of scleractinian coral in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. Previous studies of C. abbreviata have revealed that snails on branching acroporid corals are larger and consume more tissue than those on massive and plating corals. To ascertain whether snail life-history and fitness are differentially affected by the coral host, an analysis of the age structure and female reproductive output of snail populations on three coral host taxa (Acropora palmata, Diploria spp., and Montastraea spp.) was conducted at four shallow (2–7 m depth) reef sites off Key Largo, Florida in June through August, 2004. Snails were, on average, almost twice as large on A. palmata than on Diploria spp. and Montastraea spp., averaging 30.3 mm shell length, compared to 17.2 and 17.6 mm, respectively. Brood size increased as a power function with female shell length. Females on A. palmata were significantly larger than females on the other two hosts and, therefore, produced more offspring per female. The number of growth striae on the inner surface of the operculum was used to estimate snail age. Estimates of growth rate were obtained by fitting the Gompertz growth function to size-at-age plots and mortality was estimated using growth parameters and size-frequency data. The data suggest that C. abbreviata inhabiting A. palmata are larger than on alternative hosts due to a combination of a faster growth rate and longer life-span. The species is believed to be a protandrous hermaphrodite. The timing of sex change varied among hosts; snails on A. palmata changed sex later at larger sizes relative to those on the other two hosts. Based on these results, it seems probable that C. abbreviata has developed reaction norms for life-history traits, allowing snails to adjust and maximize fitness in the different environments associated with various coral hosts.


Shell Length Brood Size Coral Host Mantle Cavity Snail Population 
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 funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, through the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. C. abbreviata were collected under Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Permit FKNMS-2003-061. We thank D. E. Williams, M. J. A. Vermeij, and I. B. Baums for sharing valuable knowledge and advice and C. Fasano and L. Lawrence for assistance with snail collections. Comments from I. B. Baums and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Division of Marine Biology and FisheriesUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.NOAA FisheriesSoutheast Fisheries Science CenterMiamiUSA

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