Marine Biology

, Volume 153, Issue 6, pp 1047–1053 | Cite as

Rhythmic vertical migration of the gastropod Cerithidea decollata in a Kenyan mangrove forest

  • Marco VanniniEmail author
  • Elisha Mrabu
  • Stefano Cannicci
  • Rocco Rorandelli
  • Sara Fratini
Research Article


In Mida Creek, Kenya (3°20′S, 40°5′E), at high water, the snail Cerithidea decollata dwells on the trunks of mangrove trees (Avicennia marina), while during low water it migrates to the ground, foraging at various distances from the trunk, where it aggregates again well before the incoming tide. Snails from the upper shore level are 150–200 m distant from those living at the lower shore level and they cluster at lower heights on trunks. In any case, sufficient height is usually attained to avoid being submersed. An experiment was designed (February and October 2005), exchanging individuals from different shore levels subject to different tide regimes, in order to test whether snails rely on internal information or on external, direct cues, to adapt their behaviour to local conditions. Results show that C. decollata mostly rely on internal information, presumably based on an internal clock. When individuals from upper and lower shore levels were exchanged, their internal clocks continued to govern when to ascend the home trunk and how high to climb for five to six successive tides, after which the behaviour was reset to the new local conditions.


High Tide Lower Tree Neap Tide Internal Information Mangrove Tree 
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.



Many thanks are due to Mr Said Chewa, our guide and invaluable collaborator in Mida Creek as well as to his friends and colleagues. The work could not have been done without the help of Outi Lähteenoja, Gianni Brescacin, Nadja Frodella, Sara Mannini, Benedetta Finocchi, Valeria Tomasello and Angela Sacchi. Funds from a FIRB project (Italian MIUR), an EU project (“PUMPSEA”, contract number INCO - CT2004 - 510863) and Fondi d’Ateneo (University of Florence). Experiments comply with both the Kenyan and the Italian current laws.


  1. Balaparameswara Rao M, Sukumar RV (1982) Distribution and habits of a tropical mud snail Cerithidea cingulata (Gmelin) (Mollusca: Gastropoda). Malacologia 22:553–558Google Scholar
  2. Brown DS (1971) Ecology of gastropoda in a South African mangrove swamp. Proc Malac Soc Lond 39:263–279Google Scholar
  3. Cannicci S, Paula J, Vannini M (1999) Activity pattern and spatial strategy in Pachygrapsus marmoratus (Decapoda: Grapsidae) from Mediterranean and Atlantic shores. Mar Biol 133:429–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chelazzi G, Focardi S, Deneubourg JL (1988) Analysis of movement patterns and orientation mechanisms in intertidal chitons and gastropods. In: Chelazzi G, Vannini M (eds) Behavioural adaptation to intertidal life. Plenum, New York, pp 134–154Google Scholar
  5. Chelazzi G (1992) Invertebrates (excluding Arthropods). In: Papi F (ed) Animal homing. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 19–44Google Scholar
  6. Cockcroft VG, Forbes AT (1981) Tidal activity rhythms in the mangrove snail Cerithidea decollata (Linn.) (Gastropoda: Prosobranchia: Cerithiidae). S Afr J Zool 16:5–9Google Scholar
  7. Gherardi F, Vannini M (1992) Hermit crabs in a mangrove swamp: clustering dynamics in Clibanarius laevimanus. Mar Behav Physiol 21:85–104Google Scholar
  8. Gibson RN (2003). Go with the flow: tidal migration in marine animals. Hydrobiol 503:153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harumi O, Eiko M, Kiyonori T (2002) Tree climbing behavior of the snail Cerithidea rhizophorarum (Gastropoda: Potamididae). Venus 61:215–232Google Scholar
  10. Houbrick RS (1984) Revision of higher taxa in genus Cerithidea (Mesogastropoda: Potamididae) based on comparative morphology and biological data. Am Malac Bull 2:1–20Google Scholar
  11. Levings SC, Garrity SD (1983) Diel and tidal movement of two co-occurring neritid snails; differences in grazing patterns on a tropical rocky shore. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 67:261–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Machiwa JF, Hallber RO (1995) Flora and crabs in a mangrove forest partly distorted by human activities, Zanzibar. Ambio 24:492–496Google Scholar
  13. Macnae W (1963) Mangrove swamps in South Africa. J Ecol 51:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. McGuinness KA (1994) The climbing behaviour of Cerithidea anticipata (Mollusca: Gastropoda): the role of physical versus biological factors. Australian J Ecol 19:283–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Morgan E (2001) The moon and life on Earth. Earth Moon Planets 85–86:279–290Google Scholar
  16. Naylor E (2001) Marine animal behaviour in relation to lunar phase. Earth Moon Planets 85–86:291–302Google Scholar
  17. Palmer JD (1995) The biological rhythms and clocks of intertidal animals. University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Underwood AJ (1979) The ecology of intertidal gastropods. Adv Mar Biol 16:111–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Vannini M, Chelazzi G (1978) Field observations on the rhythmic behaviour of Nerita textilis (Gastropoda: Prosobranchia). Mar Biol 45:113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vannini M, Fratini S, Rorandelli R, Lähteenoja O, Mrabu E (2006) Tree-climbing behaviour of Cerithidea decollata (L.), a Western Indian Ocean mangrove gastropod (Mollusca, Cerithiidae). J Mar Biol Ass UK 86:1429–1436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Vannini M, Gherardi F (1988) Foraging excursion and homing in the tropical crab, Eriphia smithi. In: Chelazzi G, Vannini M (eds) Behavioural adaptation to intertidal life. Plenum, New York, pp 119–133Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Vannini
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elisha Mrabu
    • 2
  • Stefano Cannicci
    • 1
  • Rocco Rorandelli
    • 1
  • Sara Fratini
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica “L. Pardi”dell’Università di FirenzeFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research InstituteMombasaKenya

Personalised recommendations