The first observations of Ischnochiton (Mollusca, Polyplacophora) movement behaviour, with comparison between habitats differing in complexity
Liversage, K & Benkendorff, K 2017, 'The first observations of Ischnochiton (Mollusca, Polyplacophora) movement behaviour, with comparison between habitats differing in complexity', PeerJ, vol. 5.
Most species of Ischnochiton are habitat specialists and are almost always found underneath unstable marine hard-substrata such as boulders. The difficulty of experimenting on these chitons without causing disturbance means little is known about their ecology despite their importance as a group that often contributes greatly to coastal species diversity. In the present study we measured among-boulder distributional patterns of Ischnochiton smaragdinus, and used time-lapse photography to quantify movement behaviours within different habitat types (pebble substrata and rock-platform). In intertidal rock-pools in South Australia, I. smaragdinus were significantly overdispersed among boulders, as most boulders had few individuals but a small proportion harboured large populations. I. smaragdinus individuals emerge from underneath boulders during nocturnal low-tides and move amongst the inter-boulder matrix (pebbles or rock-platform). Seventy-two percent of chitons in the pebble matrix did not move from one pebble to another within the periods of observation (55-130 min) but a small proportion moved across as many as five pebbles per hour, indicating a capacity for adults to migrate among disconnected habitat patches. Chitons moved faster and movement paths were less tortuous across rock-platform compared to pebble substrata, which included more discontinuities among substratum patches. Overall, we show that patterns of distribution at the boulder-scale, such as the observed overdispersion, must be set largely by active dispersal of adults across the substratum, and that differing substratum-types may affect the degree of adult dispersal for this and possibly other under-boulder chiton species.