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Settlement of barnacle larvae is governed by Euclidean and not fractal surface characteristics

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jeremy Hills, Dr Jeremy Thomason


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1. Extensive research has been carried out on the biological, physical and chemical characteristics of surfaces that promote, or prevent, marine fouling. The texture of the substratum is probably the most important factor affecting settlement of the Acorn Barnacle Semibalanus balanoides in the field. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between fractal and Euclidean descriptions of substratum surface complexity and settlement of the Acorn Barnacle. 2. Replicate settlement panels with smooth, fine, medium and coarse surfaces were manufactured using a precise and accurate technique. Two-dimensional profiles were measured using a laser profilometer, and two surface complexity indices, potential settling sites (PSS) and the Minkowski fractal dimension (MFD) were calculated. PSS is a Euclidean measure of the surface complexity taking into account the body size and settlement behaviour of the barnacle larvae, whereas MFD is a fractal dimension related to the complexity of the surface at a variety of scales. 3. In a field experiment, settlement density of S. balanoides was positively related to both PSS and MFD. To break the correlation between PSS and MFD, surfaces were modified by sandblasting with either 64-125-μm or 250-500-μm grains. This decreased MFD but did not affect PSS. 4. A further field experiment found that this erosion using small-scale sand particles had no effect on settlement of the barnacle. It was concluded that S. balanoides larvae were responding to characteristics of the surface related to PSS and not MFD. 5. Although a correlation was found between species abundance and the fractal complexity of its habitat, further experimentation showed that there was no causality in this relationship. Many surveys, with no experimentation, of aquatic and terrestrial communities have shown relationships between organisms and their habitat and assumed causality; however, care must be taken in interpretation of such studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thomason JC; Hills JM; Muhl J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Functional Ecology

Year: 1999

Volume: 13

Issue: 6

Pages: 868-875

Print publication date: 01/12/1999

ISSN (print): 0269-8463

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2435

Publisher: British Ecological Society


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2435.1999.00377.x


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