Skate Bathyraja spp. egg predation in the eastern Bering Sea
Predation on skate eggs by snails was examined for three skate species at seven nursery sites in three regions (north, middle and south) of the eastern Bering Sea. Mean predation levels were 6·46% for the Alaska skate Bathyraja parmifera, 2·65% for the Aleutian skate Bathyraja aleutica and 22·25% for the Bering skate Bathyraja interrupta. Predation levels were significantly higher at the middle and north sites than the south sites for all species combined. Predation levels decreased with increasing egg-case densities at all nursery sites, and the highest predation levels occurred where egg-case densities were very low. Predated egg-case density increased with increasing snail densities across all nursery sites examined. The Oregon triton Fusitriton oregonensis was the most abundant snail species at all nursery sites and displayed ability to drill holes in the egg case of B. parmifera. Holes left by predatory snails in egg cases of B. parmifera were significantly larger, and of different shape at the middle site compared to the south site. Holes in B. parmifera were also significantly larger than those in egg cases of B. interrupta across all sites examined. Egg cases of B. aleutica possess surface spines that cover the egg case and may inhibit predation by snails at a greater rate than that of the B. parmifera and B. interrupta, which have a smoother egg-case surface.