The dynamics of covering behaviour in dominant echinoid populations from American and European west coasts
The so-called 'covering behaviour' of echinoids is known to vary with habitat according to the types of covering items available, but the full extent of the role played by habitat characteristics in this behaviour is not known. Moreover, whether or not different species inhabiting similar environmental conditions and habitats also show similar patterns of this particular behaviour has yet to be investigated. In this study, two prominent west coast echinoid species, Paracentrotus lividus and Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, were examined with respect to covering behaviour and spatial organisation. Populations of both species are found in exposed intertidal zones, occupying boreholes within tidepools. Important similarities were found in the spatial organisation of both species' populations, with lowest densities in upper shore pools. However, the size distributions of the two populations differed significantly; P. lividus within upper shore pools were significantly larger than those in mid or lower shore pools, whereas S. purpuratus on the lower shore were significantly larger than those at other shore heights. We found significant between-species variability in covering item use, although the number of covering items available at both sites was not significantly different. For example, greater densities of covering items were used by P. lividus than by S. purpuratus. We also found that the percent of echinoid surface area covered varied significantly in space for both species. These data emphasise the complex and multifaceted nature of covering behaviour, but most importantly, they also strongly suggest that habitat characteristics can only partly explain the extent of this behavioural variability amongst echinoid species.
Authors: Verling, Emma, Crook, Anne C., Barnes, David K.A.