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Free Content Observations of invertebrate colonized flotsam in the eastern tropical Pacific, with a discussion of rafting

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The dispersal of marine invertebrates enjoys a long history of research. In the context of larval biology, rafting, the physical association between organisms and flotsam, has received relatively little attention. Although rafting has been suggested as an alternative dispersal agent, in select species this process may serve as a primary means of dispersal (e.g., Dooley, 1972; Ó Foighil, 1989; Ingólfsson, 1995). However, direct evidence of successful dispersal by rafting is scarce (Jokiel, 1984; Jokiel, 1990; but see Jackson, 1986; Ó Foighil, 1989; Ó Foighil et al., 1999).

A number of physical oceanographic processes tend to aggregate flotsam. Fronts and eddies tend to collect biological and non-biological material through processes such as Langmuir circulation, small-scale frontal systems, internal waves and tidal fronts (Pingree, 1974; Shanks, 1983; Kingsford and Choat, 1986; Franks, 1992). A wide diversity of organisms aggregate around these processes: seabirds, marine mammals, marine turtles, sea snakes, a variety of fishes, and many invertebrates (Hunter and Mitchell, 1967; Hunter and Mitchell, 1968; Barstow, 1982; Fedoryako, 1982; Shanks, 1983; Kingsford and Choat, 1986; Le Fevre, 1986; Haney, 1987; Silber, 1990; Au, 1991; Kingsford et al., 1991; Pitman, 1993; Arenas et al., 1999). While detached macroalgae (Highsmith, 1985; Helmuth et al., 1994), pumice (Jokiel, 1984; Jokiel, 1989), and eelgrass (Worcester, 1994) have received some attention as means of dispersal mechanisms, woody flotsam has been relatively ignored as habitat or as a dispersal agent for marine invertebrates.

Here, we document invertebrate organisms rafting on woody flotsam in the Eastern Tropical Pacific and provide a simple measure of rafting frequency for the species observed. We also test the importance of flotsam surface area and distance from shore in determining species richness of the invertebrate flotsam community, and report the frequency of different flotsam types in Bay of Panama. We propose a simple scheme for classifying organisms associated with floating debris, and discuss the natural history of select rafting invertebrates with an emphasis on how certain life history traits may be advantageous to dispersal by rafting. These observations provide a preliminary indication of the invertebrate species associated with floating woody debris in this nearshore geographic region, and the importance of this resource to some of these organisms.

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Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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