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Snail Populations in Arctic Lakes: Competition Mediated by Predation?

Anne E. Hershey
Oecologia
Vol. 82, No. 1 (1990), pp. 26-32
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4219197
Page Count: 7
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Snail Populations in Arctic Lakes: Competition Mediated by Predation?
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Abstract

For 2 species of snails in arctic Alaskan lakes, I studied the patterns of snail distribution with respect to habitat, distribution of predatory fish, and the potential for interspecific competition. The snails Lymnaea elodes and Valvata lewisi co-exist in these arctic lakes, either in the presence of lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush, or in the absence of predation. Intensive sediment core sampling of Toolik Lake and Lake N-2, with trout and lacking trout, respectively, showed that the smaller snail, Valvata, was abundant in Toolik but ocurred at very low densities in Lake N-2. On the open sediments of lakes containing trout, diver surveys revealed very low densities of adult Lymnaea ($0.12\pm 0.12/\text{m}^{2}$), but similar surveys in lakes without trout revealed much higher densities of adult Lymnaea ($7.1\pm 1.8/\text{m}^{2}$). A survey of 14 lakes indicated that adult Lymnaea grew to a smaller mean size in lakes with trout than in lakes which lacked trout. In laboratory and field experiments, the presence of Lymnaea lowered the fecundity of Valvata. Laboratory experiments also showed that Lymnaea fecundity was enhanced by the presence of Valvata. Enhancement was not due to predation by Lymnaea on Valvata eggs or young. The observed patterns of distribution and abundance in the absence of trout, combined with results from laboratory experiments, are consistent with the hypothesis that competitive and facilitative interactions control the population dynamics of the two snails. The distribution and abundance patterns of snails where trout are present suggest that trout predation rather than competition controls snail population dynamics in lakes containing trout.

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