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Dietary patterns in black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii Leach, 1814) as indicated by observation of drift algal and seagrass capture at San Nicolas Island, California USA, 1982‒2019

April 14, 2020

Black abalone Haliotis cracherodii Leach, 1814 are known to feed on drift plant macrodetritus moved about in the intertidal zone by waves and currents. Drift capture is a trait shared by at least several other abalone species. Drift materials are entrapped beneath the anterior foot and held for ingestion. The quantitative significance of feeding on entrapped drift macrodetritus for black abalone is unknown. Furthermore, there are no published data on the extent to which local and mesoscale spatial distributions of source plant populations influence the composition of drift plant material in black abalone diet as acquired by entrapment. From February 1982 through March 2019, occurrences of macrodetrital entrapment by black abalone were observed in nine rocky intertidal study plots, with a summed surface area of 2,054 m2, on the periphery of San Nicolas Island (SNI), California (Island centroid at ∼33.25°, –119.50°). A small preliminary survey and 27 complete surveys were performed during the study period (mean of ∼1.4 y between complete surveys). During the study, more than 1.5 × 105 black abalone were examined. The total likely included repeated observations of many individuals as a result of the known longevity and limited mobility of the species. Of those observed, ∼1.65 × 103 black abalone were recorded as apparently ingesting entrapped items. Frequency data were dominated (∼95% of all records) by three species of kelp Macrocystis pyrifera (Linnaeus) C. Agardh; commonly known as “giant kelp”, Egregia menziesii (Turner), and Eisenia arborea Areschoug. Of those, giant kelp was the most frequently observed entrapped category (∼76%). Living, attached giant kelp is rarely observed in intertidal habitats at SNI, and it follows that utilization of giant kelp by black abalone requires physical importation of the kelp from other locations. Frequencies of occurrence of giant kelp entrapment by individual study site were clearly associated with the relative surface canopy sizes and persistence patterns of offshore kelp forests adjacent (≤2 km) to the respective study sites. The pattern suggests that subsidies of drift giant kelp to black abalone diet involve mesoscale physical processes largely proximate to SNI but probably not subsidies from more distant locations such as other islands or the California mainland. Utilization of other frequently recorded kelps as food by black abalone likely involves spatial subsidies as well, but on smaller scales of distance (∼10–100 m for E. arborea; ∼0–100 m for E. menziesii). In the context of the imperiled status of black abalone, recovery actions may include outplants of captive-reared animals or transplantation of wild animals from other populations. For such actions, data from SNI suggest a need for consideration of scales of separation among release locations and nearby populations of the three apparently predominant kelp species in black abalone diet.

Publication Year 2020
Title Dietary patterns in black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii Leach, 1814) as indicated by observation of drift algal and seagrass capture at San Nicolas Island, California USA, 1982‒2019
DOI 10.2983/035.039.0111
Authors Michael C. Kenner, Glenn Van Blaricom
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Shellfish Research
Index ID 70217316
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center