Small-scale Spatial Distribution of a Pyramidellid Snail Ectoparasite, Boonea impressa, in Relation to its Host, Crassostrea virginica, on Oyster Reefs


  • *National Center for Atmospheric Research, P. O. Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80307-3000, U.S.A.


Abstract. The pyramidellid snail, Boonea (= Odostomia) impressa (SAY), is an important ectoparasite of the oyster, Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin). The small-scale spatial distribution of snails was examined in 11 oyster populations in the Copano Bay - Aransas Bay area of the Texas coast. Snails were contagiously distributed (s2/>1) and positively spatially autocorrelated. Patchiness was better developed and patches were larger on enclosed reefs than on more exposed open-bay reefs, probably because higher wave energy and increased distance between oyster clumps limited clump-to-clump movement by snails on open-bay reefs. Small snails were consistently distributed differently from large snails because small snails were less host specific. As the snails grow, a narrowing of host preference results in a substantial change in spatial distribution. Snails were consistently more contagiously distributed than their hosts; however, snail distribution was not host-density dependent. Factors determining the spatial distribution of the host had surprisingly little effect on the distribution of snails. Snail aggregates apparently form randomly by chance meetings of a few snails and then grow by attraction of additional snails. Consequently, snail behavior, which determines the size and length of time a patch retains its integrity, and the age distribution of the snail population may be the two most important factors, besides population size, determining the impact of B. impressa on oyster populations.