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A test of Brown's principle in the intertidal limpet Collisella scabra (Gould, 1846)

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Abstract Aim 

Brown's principle predicts that a species will peak in density near its range centre, and decline gradually towards the margins of its geographical distribution. The decline is assumed to reflect a decrease in individual performance near range margins. I test this abundance–performance hypothesis by comparing patterns in density and size across the northern half of the geographical distribution of the marine patellogastropod Collisella scabra (Gould, 1846). Location 

Collisella scabra is a high intertidal patellogastropod species distributed along the Pacific coast of North America from Cape Mendocino (CA, USA) to southern Baja California (Mexico). I surveyed 11 research sites spanning c. 36–44° N. Methods 

In each of the 11 research sites I surveyed four distinct microhabitats, and compared spatial patterns in density and in the size of solitary limpets. Results 

Both density and size were highly variable across the species range. Density peaked near the northern range margin, and showed greater variance at small spatial scales (< 10 km) than at large scales (> 100 km). In contrast, large size occurred uniformly across the survey area, and size was strongly associated with microhabitat. Main conclusion 

Collisella scabra does not show spatial patterns of density or performance that are consistent with Brown's principle. The underlying assumptions of Brown's principle may conflict with specific characteristics of C. scabra's life history and/or patterns of environmental variation across its range. Because such conflicts may be common in a large number of marine and terrestrial species, the generality of Brown's principle is questioned.

Keywords: Abundance; Brown's principle; Collisella scabra; Macclintockia; North American coast; environmental heterogeneity; geographical range; performance; size

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-09-01

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