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Testing the abundant-centre hypothesis using intertidal porcelain crabs along the Chilean coast: linking abundance and life-history variation

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Abstract:

Abstract Aim 

The abundant-centre hypothesis (ACH) is based on the assumption that physiological constraints limit populations at the edges of their distributional range, yet the geographical variation of physiological performance or life-history traits has rarely been examined. Here we examine the applicability of the ACH in a marine system by testing whether physiological predictions are reflected in large-scale variations of life-history traits. Location 

The Chilean coast (18°–42° S), encompassing more than 2500 km along the Pacific coast of South America. Methods 

Five porcelain crab species (Petrolisthes granulosus, Petrolisthes laevigatus, Petrolisthes tuberculatus, Petrolisthes violaceus and Allopetrolisthes angulosus) were sampled on intertidal boulder beaches at 13 sampling sites. For each species and site we evaluated: (1) relative abundance (density), (2) maximum size, (3) size at maturity, (4) sex ratio, (5) proportion of ovigerous females, and (6) presence of recruits. The shape of the spatial distribution of each trait was evaluated statistically against the prediction of four hypothetical models (normal, ramped-south, ramped-north and abundant-edge). Results 

The relative abundance and life-history traits showed different spatial patterns among species. Relative abundance (across sites) was fitted by a normal model in only two species. No model fitted the spatial variation in body size and size at first maturity, which showed a slight but monotonic poleward increase in all species. Sex ratio showed a prominent hump-shaped pattern, with females prevailing in the centre of the ranges and males dominating towards the range boundaries; this pattern was statistically significant in three of the five studied species. The proportion of ovigerous females showed no clear latitudinal trends, and mature individuals were observed across most of the geographical range of the species. However, recruits tended to be absent towards the southern (poleward) boundaries of the distribution. Main conclusions 

The ACH does not apply to all species equally. The link between abundance and life-history traits is complex and variable among the porcelain crab species studied. Overall, the observed patterns were consistent with the idea that equatorward boundaries might be controlled by physiological restrictions mainly affecting adult survival, whereas poleward boundaries might be shaped by limitations in reproductive output and larval survival. Our results underline the importance of incorporating ecological, physiological and life-history studies in future tests of the ACH.

Keywords: Abundant-centre hypothesis; Brown’s principle; Porcellanidae; Southeast Pacific; intertidal zone; macroecology; macrophysiology; sex ratio; size–temperature rule

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02224.x

Affiliations: Departamento de Biología Marina, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, and Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Aridas (CEAZA), Universidad Católica del Norte, Larrondo 1281, Coquimbo, Chile

Publication date: March 1, 2010

bsc/jbiog/2010/00000037/00000003/art00010
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