Potential habitat dependence in deposition rate of presumptive annual lines in shells of the bivalve Protothaca staminea



    1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences, Morehead City, North Carolina, 28557, U.S.A.
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    1. Institutt for Marinbiologi og Limnologi, Avdeling for Marin Zoologi og Marin Kjemi, Universitetet i Oslo, Postboks 1064 Blindern, Oslo 3, Norway
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Although repeating depositional features in shells of bivalve molluscs continue to be used in ecology and paleoecology to age individual specimens and thereby provide a potentially powerful tool for geochronological reconstruction of past events, few studies actually test the basic assumptions of growth line analysis: (1) that line deposition is truly periodic and (2) that the length of the period is one year. Recapture of marked individuals of the bivalve Protothaca staminea after 12 or 24 months in field plots in two habitats of Mugu Lagoon (California, U.S.A.) suggests a habitat-specific pattern of deposition of the major growth lines previously assumed to be annual. External (surface) and internal (cross-sectional) growth lines were in excellent agreement on any given specimen and showed that each specimen from a muddy-sand environment deposited a single annual line over 12 months, whereas all but one specimen from a clean-sand environment deposited several more major growth lines than predicted from the numbers of years of additional growth. Although more frequent handling or natural disturbance in the higher-energy, clean-sand habitat may explain these differences, the results demand caution in extrapolating tests of annual periodicity in growth line deposition across species or even across habitats for a single species.