Predation of the sea urchin
Heliocidaris erythrogramma by rock lobsters ( Jasus edwardsii) in no-take marine reserves
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Pederson, HG and Johnson, CR, Predation of the sea urchin
Heliocidaris erythrogramma by rock lobsters ( Jasus edwardsii) in no-take marine reserves, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 336, (1) pp. 120-134. ISSN 0022-0981 (2006) [Refereed Article]
The formation of sea urchin 'barrens' on shallow temperate rocky reefs is well documented. However there has been much conjecture about the underlying mechanisms leading to sea urchin barrens, and relatively little experimentation to test these ideas critically. We conducted a series of manipulative experiments to determine whether predation mortality is an important mechanism structuring populations of the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma in Tasmania. Tethered juvenile and adult sea urchins experienced much higher rates of mortality inside no-take marine reserves where sea urchin predators were abundant compared to adjacent fished areas where predators were fewer. Mortality of tagged (but not tethered) sea urchins was also notably higher in marine reserves than in adjacent areas open to fishing. When a range of sizes of sea urchins was exposed to three sizes of rock lobsters in a caging experiment, juvenile sea urchins were eaten more frequently than larger sea urchins by all sizes of rock lobster, but only the largest rock lobsters (> 120 mm CL) were able to consume large adult sea urchins. Tagging (but not tethering) juvenile and adult sea urchins in two separate marine reserves indicated that adult sea urchins experience higher predation mortality than juveniles, probably because juveniles can shelter in cryptic microhabitat more effectively. In a field experiment in which exposure of sea urchins to rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) and demersal reef fish predators was manipulated, rock lobsters were shown to be more important than fish as predators of adult sea urchins in a marine reserve. We conclude that predators, and particularly rock lobsters, exert significant predation mortality on H. erythrogramma in Tasmanian marine reserves, and that adult sea urchins are more vulnerable than smaller cryptic individuals. Fishing of rock lobsters is likely to reduce an important component of mortality in H. erythrogramma populations. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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