Changes in the selection differential exerted on a marine snail during the ontogeny of a predatory shore crab


E. G. Boulding, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1.
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Empirical estimates of selection gradients caused by predators are common, yet no one has quantified how these estimates vary with predator ontogeny. We used logistic regression to investigate how selection on gastropod shell thickness changed with predator size. Only small and medium purple shore crabs (Hemigrapsus nudus) exerted a linear selection gradient for increased shell-thickness within a single population of the intertidal snail (Littorina subrotundata). The shape of the fitness function for shell thickness was confirmed to be linear for small and medium crabs but was humped for large male crabs, suggesting no directional selection. A second experiment using two prey species to amplify shell thickness differences established that the selection differential on adult snails decreased linearly as crab size increased. We observed differences in size distribution and sex ratios among three natural shore crab populations that may cause spatial and temporal variation in predator-mediated selection on local snail populations.