The effects of exposure and predation on the shell of two British winkles



Changes in shell size and shell shape of the two British winkles Littorina nigrolineata and L. rudis were studied in relation to exposure and to crab-size. In both species, shells from exposed shores are smaller and more globose than those from sheltered shores. Also, in rudis of exposed shores the mouth is relatively wider. In shores of equally sheltered conditions, shells are bigger at those localities where crabs are large than at those localities where they are small. The largest shells are found in those localities where it is extremely sheltered, and the crabs are very large.

It is argued that on exposed shores, small shells are favoured because they have more possibilities than large ones to shelter in crevices and in barnacle interspaces, from the impact of winds and waves. A globose shell could accommodate more foot muscle and thus enable a stronger adherence to the rock; and an increased mouth diameter would increase the area of foot adherence to the rock. On sheltered shores, on the other hand, large, narrow-mouthed shells are favoured because they discourage crab predation, large crabs being abundant mainly on sheltered shores.

The possible significance of shell size and shape in relation to zonation is discussed, in view of the different predatory and physical conditions which prevail in different zones of the shore, and the different shell specializations which these conditions would require.