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Adaptation to dislodgement risk on wave-swept rocky shores in the snail Littorina saxatilis.

Journal article
Authors Guénolé Le Pennec
Roger Butlin
Per R. Jonsson
Ann I. Larsson
Jessica Lindborg
Erik Bergström
Anja M Westram
Kerstin Johannesson
Published in PloS one
Volume 12
Issue 10
Pages e0186901
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of marine sciences
Pages e0186901
Language en
Subject categories Evolutionary Biology


The periwinkle Littorina saxatilis has repeatedly evolved both a small, fragile and globose "wave ecotype" confined to wave-swept shores and a large, robust and elongated "crab ecotype" found in nearby crab-rich but less-exposed shores. This phenotypic divergence is assumed to reflect, in some part, local adaptation to wave exposure, but this hypothesis has received incomplete experimental testing. Here, we report a test of the prediction that the wave ecotype has a higher capacity to resist water flow than the crab ecotype. We sampled snails along a crab-wave transect and measured their resistance to dislodgement in a high-speed water flume with water speeds that match those of breaking waves in a range of relevant field conditions. Snails from the wave environment were consistently more resistant to water flow than snails from the crab environment and high resistance was positively correlated with the surface area of the foot and the area of the outer aperture contour both relative to shell size, and to the extent of lateral shell compression. In a separate experiment, we found that snails raised in still water in a common garden showed higher resistance to water flow if originating from a wave environment than from a crab environment, and this was true both at juvenile (2 weeks) and adult (10 months) developmental stages. This result suggests genetic control of a distinct "wave adapted" phenotype, likely to be maintained under strong divergent selection between the two adjacent habitats.

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