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Concept: Intertidal zone


The abundant dinosaurian tracksites of the Lower Cretaceous (Valanginian-Barremian) Broome Sandstone of the Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia, form an important part of the West Kimberley National Heritage Place. Previous attempts to document these tracksites using traditional mapping techniques (e.g., surface overlays, transects and gridlines combined with conventional photography) have been hindered by the non-trivial challenges associated with working in this area, including, but not limited to: (1) the remoteness of many of the tracksites; (2) the occurrence of the majority of the tracksites in the intertidal zone; (3) the size and complexity of many of the tracksites, with some extending over several square kilometres. Using the historically significant and well-known dinosaurian tracksites at Minyirr (Gantheaume Point), we show how these issues can be overcome through the use of an integrated array of remote sensing tools. A combination of high-resolution aerial photography with both manned and unmanned aircraft, airborne and handheld high-resolution lidar imaging and handheld photography enabled the collection of large amounts of digital data from which 3D models of the tracksites at varying resolutions were constructed. The acquired data encompasses a very broad scale, from the sub-millimetre level that details individual tracks, to the multiple-kilometre level, which encompasses discontinuous tracksite exposures and large swathes of coastline. The former are useful for detailed ichnological work, while the latter are being employed to better understand the stratigraphic and temporal relationship between tracksites in a broader geological and palaeoecological context. These approaches and the data they can generate now provide a means through which digital conservation and temporal monitoring of the Dampier Peninsula’s dinosaurian tracksites can occur. As plans for the on-going management of the tracks in this area progress, analysis of the 3D data and 3D visualization will also likely provide an important means through which the broader public can experience these spectacular National Heritage listed landscapes.

Concepts: Geographic information system, Computer graphics, Cretaceous, Remote sensing, Intertidal zone, Cartography, Aerial photography, TopoFlight


Experiments have shown that interspecific interactions within consumer guilds can alter patterns of distribution, abundance and size of species. Plastic behavioural responses can be modulated by agonistic interactions. In many cases, consumers compete for space and shelters, and these interactions change the manner in which they exploit food. This study investigates the consequences of competition in the spatial and temporal organization of behaviour of intertidal grazers, which share algal resources and the use of rock crevices while resting, but exhibit different body sizes, spatial behaviour and foraging modes. We evaluate interaction strength between small gregarious Siphonaria lessoni and the larger territorial keyhole limpet Fissurella crassa and between S. lessoni and the medium-size gregarious chiton Chiton granosus. Using field manipulations and artificial arenas in the laboratory, we tested whether the use of crevices, micro-spatial distribution and activity are modified by the density of conspecifics and the presence of heterospecifics. Our results show that small-scale spatial segregation observed in the field between S. lessoni and C. granosus result from species-specific differences in habitat use. In turn, we found evidence that spatial segregation between F. crassa and S. lessoni results from highly asymmetric interference competition in the use of shelters. The presence of F. crassa reduced the use of crevices and growth rates of S. lessoni. Effects on growth rates are assumed to result from exposure to harsh environmental conditions rather than food limitation. Thus, neither gregarious behaviour nor differences in activity were sufficient to prevent competition with the larger grazer. Our study illustrates the importance of competition for shelters, which results in behavioural changes of the smaller-sized species, and how these plastic responses can translate into differences in growth rates. Use of shelters can thus be modulated by environmental conditions in a species-specific as well as an interactive manner within consumers' guilds.

Concepts: Competition, Interspecific competition, Intertidal zone, Biological interactions, Biological interaction, Limpet, Fissurellidae


Understanding the effects of environmental change on the distribution and abundance of strongly interacting organisms, such as intertidal macroalgae and their grazers, needs a thorough knowledge of their underpinning ecological relationships. Control of grazer-plant interactions is bi-directional on northwestern European coasts: grazing by limpets structures populations of macroalgae, while macroalgae provide habitat and food for limpets. Scottish shores dominated by the macroalga Fucus vesiculosus support lower densities and larger sizes of limpets Patella vulgata than shores with less Fucus. These patterns may be due to differences in inter-size-class competitive interactions of limpets among shores with different covers of Fucus. To examine this model, densities of small and large limpets were manipulated in plots with and without Fucus. Amounts of biofilm were measured in each plot. The presence of Fucus increased survival but hindered growth of small (15 mm TL) limpets, which were negatively affected by the presence of large limpets (31 mm TL). In contrast, large limpets were not affected by the presence of Fucus or of small limpets. This suggests the occurrence of asymmetric inter-size-class competition, which was influenced by the presence of macroalgae. Macroalgae and increased densities of limpets did not influence amounts of biofilm. Our findings highlight the role of interactions among organisms in generating ecological responses to environmental change.

Concepts: Algae, Biology, Fucus vesiculosus, Fucus, Seaweed, Intertidal zone, Limpet, Patella vulgata


Sea star wasting disease (SSWD) first appeared in Oregon in April 2014, and by June had spread to most of the coast. Although delayed compared to areas to the north and south, SSWD was initially most intense in north and central Oregon and spread southward. Up to 90% of individuals showed signs of disease from June-August 2014. In rocky intertidal habitats, populations of the dominant sea star Pisaster ochraceus were rapidly depleted, with magnitudes of decline in density among sites ranging from -2x to -9x (59 to 84%) and of biomass from -2.6x to -15.8x (60 to 90%) by September 2014. The frequency of symptomatic individuals declined over winter and persisted at a low rate through the spring and summer 2015 (~5-15%, at most sites) and into fall 2015. Disease expression included six symptoms: initially with twisting arms, then deflation and/or lesions, lost arms, losing grip on substrate, and final disintegration. SSWD was disproportionally higher in orange individuals, and higher in tidepools. Although historically P. ochraceus recruitment has been low, from fall 2014 to spring 2015 an unprecedented surge of sea star recruitment occurred at all sites, ranging from ~7x to 300x greater than in 2014. The loss of adult and juvenile individuals in 2014 led to a dramatic decline in predation rate on mussels compared to the previous two decades. A proximate cause of wasting was likely the “Sea Star associated Densovirus” (SSaDV), but the ultimate factors triggering the epidemic, if any, remain unclear. Although warm temperature has been proposed as a possible trigger, SSWD in Oregon populations increased with cool temperatures. Since P. ochraceus is a keystone predator that can strongly influence the biodiversity and community structure of the intertidal community, major community-level responses to the disease are expected. However, predicting the specific impacts and time course of change across west coast meta-communities is difficult, suggesting the need for detailed coast-wide investigation of the effects of this outbreak.

Concepts: Predation, Apex predator, Oregon, Intertidal zone, Tide, Asteroidea, Starfish, Tide pool


Climate change can influence ecosystems via both direct effects on individual organisms and indirect effects mediated by species interactions. However, we understand little about how these changes will ripple through ecosystems or whether there are particular ecological characteristics that might make ecosystems more susceptible-or more resistant-to warming. By combining in situ experimental warming with herbivore manipulations in a natural rocky intertidal community for over 16 months, we show that herbivory regulates the capacity of marine communities to resist warming. We found that limpet herbivores helped to preserve trophic and competitive interactions under experimental warming, dampening the impact of warming on overall community composition. The presence of limpets facilitated the survival of the main habitat modifier (barnacles) under warmer conditions, which, in turn, facilitated the presence of a consumer guild. When limpets were removed, environmental warming altered trophic, competitive, and facilitative interactions, with cascading impacts on community succession and stability. We conclude that conserving trophic structure and the integrity of interaction networks is vitally important as Earth continues to warm.

Concepts: Plant, Ecology, Animal, Herbivore, Intertidal zone, Ecological succession, Herbivory, Limpet


Tidal (12.4 hr) cycles of behavior and physiology adapt intertidal organisms to temporally complex coastal environments, yet their underlying mechanism is unknown. However, the very existence of an independent “circatidal” clock has been disputed, and it has been argued that tidal rhythms arise as a submultiple of a circadian clock, operating in dual oscillators whose outputs are held in antiphase i.e., ∼12.4 hr apart.

Concepts: Biology, Species, Intertidal zone, Tide, Intertidal ecology


A new dinosaur tracksite in the Vale de Meios quarry (Serra de Aire Formation, Bathonian, Portugal)preserves more than 700 theropod tracks. They are organized in at least 80 unidirectional trackways arranged in a bimodal orientation pattern (W/NW and E/SE). Quantitative and qualitative comparisons reveal that the large tridactyl, elongated and asymmetric tracks resemble the typical Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous Megalosauripus ichnogenus in all morphometric parameters. Few of the numerous tracks are preserved as elite tracks while the rest are preserved as different gradients of modified true tracks according to water content, erosive factors, radial fractures and internal overtrack formations. Taphonomical determinations are consistent with paleoenvironmental observations that indicate an inter-tidal flat located at the margin of a coastal barrier. The Megalosauripus tracks represent the oldest occurrence of this ichnotaxon and are attributed to large megalosaurid dinosaurs. Their occurrence in Vale de Meios tidal flat represents the unique paleoethological evidence of megalosaurids moving towards the lagoon, most likley during the low tide periods with feeding purposes.

Concepts: Coast, Dinosaur, Theropoda, Intertidal zone, Tide, Geodesy, Jurassic, Megalosaurus


The influence of visitors on macroinvertebrates of rocky intertidal shores was investigated in southern coasts of the Qeshm Island, the Persian Gulf, Iran. Qeshm Island located at the Strait of Hormuz, with an area of 1,491 km(2), is the largest island in the region. This island consists of a number of important natural habitat types including creeks, mangroves, corals, and sandy, muddy, and rocky shores that accommodate diverse marine flora and fauna communities. Two rocky shores were selected at the touristic beaches being visited regularly, and further two control locations selected at pristine shores. Intertidal macroinvertebrates were collected from six microhabitats including rock platforms, cobbles, boulders, crevices, sea walls, and rock pools during two different periods representing high and low tourist seasons. Species richness, density, and assemblage structure in heavily visited shores were compared with that of control locations. Striped barnacles (Balanus amphitrite) were present on platforms of all locations, thus the changes in their size were used as the obvious contrast associated with visitor’s impact. A total of 70 macroinvertebrate species from 11 phyla were recorded. Significant differences were detected in taxonomic richness, density, and assemblage structure of macroinvertebrates between heavily visited and pristine shores, suggesting that macroinvertebrates were adversely affected by visitors' impact at heavily visited shores. The test of changes in species richness, density, and assemblage structure from high to low seasons yielded mixed results. The significant changes in density and assemblage structure from high to low seasons were only observed in one heavily visited shore. A significant reduction in size of striped barnacles was observed only in one heavily visited shore. The opportunistic or fugitive species (e.g., small macroalgae and barnacles) were dominant macroinvertebrates on heavily visited shores indicating early succession stage. The results presented here showed that macroinvertebrates were adversely affected by human activities in subtropical rocky shore.

Concepts: United Arab Emirates, Iran, Persian Gulf, Intertidal zone, Shore, Gulf of Oman, Oman, Strait of Hormuz


In coastal environments, evaporation is an important driver of subsurface salinity gradients in marsh systems. However, it has not been addressed in the intertidal zone of sandy beaches. Here, we used field data on an estuarine beach foreshore with numerical simulations to show that evaporation causes upper intertidal zone pore-water salinity to be double that of seawater. We found the increase in pore-water salinity mainly depends on air temperature and relative humidity, and tide and wave actions dilute a fraction of the high salinity plume, resulting in a complex process. This is in contrast to previous studies that consider seawater as the most saline source to a coastal aquifer system, thereby concluding that seawater infiltration always increases pore-water salinity by seawater-groundwater mixing dynamics. Our results demonstrate the combined effects of evaporation and tide and waves on subsurface salinity distribution on a beach face. We anticipate our quantitative investigation will shed light on the studies of salt-affected biological activities in the intertidal zone. It also impacts our understanding of the impact of global warming; in particular, the increase in temperature does not only shift the saltwater landward, but creates a different salinity distribution that would have implications on intertidal biological zonation.

Concepts: Water, Coast, Beach, Intertidal zone, Coastal geography, Tide, Shore, Tide pool


The specialized salt glands on the epidermis of halophytic plants secrete excess salts from tissues by a mechanism that is poorly understood. We examined the salt glands as putative salt and water bi-regulatory units that can respond swiftly to altering environmental cues. The tropical mangrove tree species (Avicennia officinalis) is able to grow under fluctuating salinities (0.7-50 dS/m) at intertidal zones, and its salt glands offer an excellent platform to investigate their dynamic responses under rapidly changing salinities. Utilizing a novel epidermal peel system, secretion profiles of hundreds of individual salt glands examined revealed that these glands could secrete when exposed to varying salinities. Notably, rhythmic fluctuations observed in secretion rates were reversibly inhibited by water channel (aquaporin) blocker, and two aquaporin genes (PIP and TIP) preferentially expressed in the salt gland cells were rapidly induced in response to increasing salt concentration. We propose that aquaporins are involved and contribute to the re-absorption of water during salt removal in A. officinalis salt glands. This constitutes an adaptive feature that contributes to salt balance of trees growing in saline environments where freshwater availability is limited.

Concepts: Plant, Secretion, Water, Tree, Gland, Glands, Intertidal zone, Mangrove