In metapopulations, the maintenance of local populations can depend on source-sink dynamics, where populations with positive growth rate seed populations with negative growth rate. The pattern and probability of successful dispersal among habitats can therefore be crucial in determining whether local populations will become rare or increase in abundance. We present here data on the dispersal strategy and population dynamics of three marine amphipods living in pen shells (Atrina rigida) in the Gulf of Mexico. The three amphipod species in this study disperse at different life stages. Neomegamphopus hiatus and Melita nitida disperse as adults, while Bemlos unicornis disperses as juveniles. The two species that disperse as adults have the highest initial population sizes when a new shell becomes available, likely caused by the arriving females releasing their brood into these recently occupied shells. This dispersal pattern results in initially higher population growth, but fewer occupied shells, as noted by their clumped distribution. In contrast, the species that disperses as juveniles accumulates more slowly and more evenly across habitats, eventually dominating the other two in terms of numerical abundance. The metapopulation dynamics of the three species seems to be highly dependent on the life history stage involved in dispersal.
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Acknowledgments We would like to thank D. Ferrell, N. Fogarty, K. Lotterhos, T. Miller, and C. terHorst for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Many thanks to B. Ehrmann, A. Schweikart, C. Scott, C. Stokes, and E. Yambaski for Weld assistance. This research was partially supported by a Gramlin Award, Florida State University. The experiments in this study comply with the current laws of the United States.
- Abundance-distribution relationship
- Benthic invertebrates
- Life history stage