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Recent changes in the distribution of a marine gastropod, Patella rustica Linnaeus, 1758, and their relationship to unusual climatic events

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Abstract Aim 

Recent colonization of northern Portuguese shores by Patella rustica Linnaeus, 1758, led to the bridging of a historical gap in the distribution known since the 1900s. Long-term oceanographic data collected over the last half-century were examined in order to detect possible mechanisms for the observed change in its distribution. Location 

This study was carried out along the entire Portuguese coastline, from 41°50′ to 37°06′ N. Time-series of hydrographical variables (sea surface temperature and salinity) were derived for the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Methods 

Abundance and size-frequency distributions of the newly observed limpet populations were compared with those from well-established populations in southern Portugal. Anomalies were computed for sea surface temperature (1950–2000) and sea surface salinity (1958–2001) data, covering the whole Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. An upwelling index (1967–2005) was derived for a single location within the distributional gap of P. rustica. Split moving window analysis was performed to detect significant discontinuities in hydrographical data sets. Results 

Patella rustica has gradually been expanding in northern Iberia, and in the late 1990s the historical gap in distribution in northern Portugal was bridged. Size-frequency distribution differed between historical and recent populations, the latter lacking small-sized individuals. At the same time, several anomalous oceanographic events occurred off the Portuguese coast and were probably related to this expansion. Main conclusions 

Although sea surface temperature might be a major determinant of the reproductive success of P. rustica and hence its dispersal potential, it is more likely that a coincidence of several factors occurring in the late 1990s provided exceptional conditions that allowed the geographical expansion of this species.
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Keywords: Biogeography; Patella rustica; Portugal; climate change; dispersal; sea salinity; sea temperature; upwelling

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Vairão, Portugal

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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