Shell Middens as Indicators of Long-Term Distributional Pattern in Strombus Gigas, a Heavily Exploited Marine Gastropod
Abstract:Shell middens of the economically important gastropod Strombus gigas in the Exuma Sound system of the central Bahamas were located on the shores of islands near tidal inlets between the Exuma Sound and the Great Bahama Bank. The volume of shell middens was directly correlated (r = 0.944) with the abundance of juvenile conch in the shallow surrounding waters (log-log relationship). Radiocarbon dates for shells collected from the bottoms of large middens indicated that these shell accumulations reflect a history of fishing in the region dating back more than 400 yrs. The middens probably originated with the indigenous Lucayan population, then continued to accumulate through the European invasion of the Bahamas, the British Loyalist period, and up to the present date. The distribution of shell middens indicates that the eastern Sound never had an important conch fishery, corroborating the present day low abundance of conch in the area, and advection of queen conch larvae from east to west. High shell volumes in the northern Sound reflect large conch populations and larval retention in that region. Shell middens can yield important insights into human history, and useful information on the biogeography, ecology, and long-term fisheries of heavily exploited molluscan species such as S. gigas.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: November 1, 1997
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