Individual differences in activity and habitat selection of juvenile queen conch evaluated using acceleration biologgers
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Fine-scale differences in behaviour and habitat use have important ecological implications, but have rarely been examined in marine gastropods. We used tri-axial accelerometer loggers to estimate activity levels and movement patterns of the juvenile queen conch Lobatus gigas (n = 11) in 2 habitat types in Eleuthera, The Bahamas. In 2 manipulations in nearshore areas, queen conchs were equipped with accelerometers and released in adjacent coral rubble or seagrass habitats. Queen conchs were located approximately every 6 h during daylight by snorkeling, to measure individual differences in linear distance moved, and after 24 h they were relocated to an alternate habitat (24 h in each habitat). We found significant inter-individual variability in activity levels, but more consistent levels of activity between the 2 habitat types within individual queen conchs. Four (36%) of the individuals placed in seagrass moved back to the adjacent coral rubble habitat, suggesting selectivity for coral rubble. Individuals showed variable behavioural responses when relocated to the less preferable seagrass habitat, which may be related to differing stress-coping styles. Our results suggest that behavioural variability between individuals may be an important factor driving movement and habitat use in queen conch and, potentially, their susceptibility to human stressors. This study provides evidence of diverse behavioural (activity) patterns and habitat selectivity in a marine gastropod and highlights the utility of accelero meter biologgers for continuously monitoring animal behaviour in the wild.
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