Size-dependent Distribution And Feeding Habits Of Terebralia Palustris In Mangrove Habitats Of Gazi Bay, Kenya
Kamanu, Chomba Peter
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The gastropod Terebralia palustris often dominates the surface of muddy to sandy substrates of intertidal mudflats and mangrove forests, where they clearly destabilize the sediment. In the present study, it was investigated whether and to what extent the behaviour of juvenile and adult snails differs among habitats (mudflat vs. mangrove stand) in a Sonneratia alba mangal at Gazi Bay, Kenya. For this purpose we: (1) examined their distribution along three land–sea transects; and (2) applied stable isotope analysis to determine the feeding patterns of different-sized snails from the mangrove and mudflat habitats. Additionally, we investigated if these gastropods exert an impact on microphytobenthic (diatom) biomass, and whether this is size-dependent. The latter objective was met by either enclosing or excluding different-sized snails from experimental cages on the intertidal mudflat and the subsequent assessment of a change in pigment concentration of the sediment surface. In agreement with several previous studies conducted in other mangroves and geographical locations, a spatial segregation was demonstrated between juveniles (more common on the mudflat) and adults (more common in the mangrove forest). On the intertidal mudflat juveniles avoided sediment patches characterized by highly saline water in intertidal pools and a high mud content, while adults tended to dwell on substrates covered by a high amount of leaf litter. Stable carbon isotope analysis of the foot tissue of snails sampled from the S. alba stand and the mudflat indicated a transition in food source when a shell length of 51 mm is reached. Considering the δ13C value of juveniles, it seems they might be selecting for microphytobenthos, which might explain their preference for the mudflat. The diet of size classes found in both habitats did not differ significantly, although juveniles inhabiting the mangrove forest were slightly more depleted in 13C compared to those residing on the mudflat. Assuming juveniles feed on benthic microalgae and considering the lower microalgal biomass inside the mangrove forest, this may be a consequence of a higher contribution of other, more 13C depleted organic carbon sources, like phytoplankton, to their diet. Experimental results indicate a negative, but insignificant, impact on benthic diatom biomass by juveniles (due to grazing) and adults (due to physical disturbance). This finding seems to be in agreement with the results of the stable carbon isotope analysis, strongly suggesting the selective feeding of juvenile T. palustris on benthic diatoms.