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Population structure and reproductive states of the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus differ between artificial structures and natural rocky shores

Lookup NU author(s): Hannah Earp, Professor Pip MooreORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023. Artificial structures are an increasingly common feature of coastal marine environments. These structures are poor surrogates of natural rocky shores, and generally support less diverse communities and reduced population sizes. Little is known about sub-lethal effects of such structures in terms of demographic properties and reproductive potential, both of which may influence the dynamics and long-term viability of populations. This study examines the population structure, reproductive states and embryo production of Nucella lapillus populations on artificial structures and natural shores in Ireland and Wales. Population density was measured twice at six natural shores and six artificial structures: once in winter and once in spring. At each sampling, the shell height of 100 individuals from each site was measured. Monthly collections of adult specimens and egg capsules were made at each site from November–January and from March–May, in order to determine sex ratios, reproductive states, and embryo abundances. Artificial structures supported larger individuals and very few juveniles compared to natural shores. Between December and January, natural shores experienced a distinctive pulse in spawning activity followed by a decline in the proportion of females in a reproductive state, whereas on artificial structures the proportion of reproductive females remained relatively stable. Differences observed may be due to a lack of microhabitats on artificial structures, along with subtle variations in structure slope. Eco-engineering interventions, including the addition of refugia such as cracks and crevices, may allow N. lapillus populations on artificial structures to approximate those on natural shores.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thompson B, Brooks PR, Farrugia Drakard V, Kubin F, Earp HS, Alvarez-Cienfuegos I, Moore PJ, Crowe TP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Environmental Research

Year: 2023

Volume: 189

Print publication date: 01/07/2023

Online publication date: 12/06/2023

Acceptance date: 11/06/2023

Date deposited: 04/07/2023

ISSN (print): 0141-1136

ISSN (electronic): 1879-0291

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2023.106059

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/xpqw-w393


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Funder referenceFunder name
European Regional Development Fund