Ecology of Limpets : Interaction between food intake & biochemical profiles

Human modification of coastlines is a worldwide phenomenon and natural habitats are being replaced by a variety of artificial structures such as seawalls, breakwaters and/or jetties. Understanding the effect of these artificial habitats on ecological interactions is vital in order to plan their design and minimise their impacts less than or nearby rocky shores.

Limpets are key organisms playing a fundamental ecological role in structuring and modifying ecosystems properties, in that their grazing stops shorelines being dominated by large seaweeds. On artificial habitats in Sydney Harbour however, the number of limpets diminished. Previous research at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities has shown that limpets do not breed naturally on seawalls. One reason for this may be the fact that the food available may not be enough for their nutritional requirements.

Since in the marine environment direct observations of feeding are often very difficult, Sonia Brazao of the University of Sydney, and 2012 Doctoral Fellow at SIMS, plans to use cutting edge methods such as chemical tracers (e.g. stable isotopes and fatty acid analyses) to determine the nutritional requirements of limpets. Sonia will use the limpet Cellana tramoserica, an abundant marine gastropod mollusc on the rocky shores of New South Wales to develop new knowledge on the biology and ecology of animals on the structures and coasts of the Harbour and adjacent shores.