Abundance, diversity and fidelity of macroinvertebrates sheltering beneath rocks during tidal emersion in an intertidal cobble field: Does the intermediate disturbance hypothesis hold for less exposed shores with smaller rocks?

Academic Article


  • The community structure of macroinvertebrates occurring beneath cobbles during tidal emersion was investigated in an intertidal cobble field on the east coast of the south island of New Zealand. In order to test whether the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH) holds in less exposed shores comprised exclusively of smaller rocks (cobbles) we measured 1) the size frequency distribution of cobbles (mass and basal surface area), 2) the incidence of barnacle encrustation as an indirect measure of cobble disturbance, 3) the abundances of the dominant macroinvertebrates occurring beneath cobbles (the crab Hemigrapsus crenulatus, the chiton Sypharochiton pelliserpentis and the snail Diloma zealandica), and 4) macroinvertebrate fidelity beneath a range of cobble sizes. Only large cobbles were found to be encrusted with barnacles, indicative of their greater resistance to physical disturbance by waves and currents. Mark and relocate experiments indicated fidelity to a given cobble over two tidal cycles was 11-14% for crabs and did not vary with cobble size. In contrast, fidelity to medium and large cobbles was higher for chitons (26-45%) and snails (17-31%) and generally increased with increasing cobble size. In contrast to the predictions of the IDH, there was a positive correlation between increasing cobble size and increasing species diversity of organisms found under the cobbles. This pattern is not simply attributable to greater space available beneath large cobbles as there was a significantly greater density of macroinvertebrates beneath medium and large, compared to the small cobbles. Increasing species diversity with increasing cobble size appears to be independent of patterns of species recolonization associated with small cobbles being subject to high disturbance or interspecific competitive hierarchies associated with low disturbance beneath large cobbles. Instead, factors such as aggregative behaviors, and reducing vulnerability to predators and desiccation stress are likely to explain the relationship between cobbles and their associated macroinvertebrate communities. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • McClintock JB; Angus RA; McClintock FE
  • Start Page

  • 351
  • End Page

  • 360
  • Volume

  • 352
  • Issue

  • 2