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Figures and tables from Colonial ascidians strongly preyed upon, yet dominate the substrate in a subtropical fouling community

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journal contribution
posted on 20.03.2019 by Laurel Sky Hiebert, Edson A. Vieira, Gustavo M. Dias, Stefano Tiozzo, Federico D. Brown
Higher diversity and dominance at lower latitudes has been suggested for colonial species. We verified this pattern in species richness of ascidians, finding that higher colonial-to-solitary species ratios occur in the tropics and subtropics. At the latitudinal region with the highest ratio, in south-eastern Brazil, we confirmed that colonial species dominate space on artificial plates in two independent studies of five fouling communities. We manipulated settlement plates to measure effects of predation and competition on growth and survivorship of colonial versus solitary ascidians. Eight species were subjected to a predation treatment, i.e. caged versus exposed to predators, and a competition treatment, i.e. leaving versus removing competitors, to assess main and interactive effects. Predation had a greater effect on growth and survivorship of colonial compared to solitary species, whereas competition did not show consistent patterns. We hypothesize that colonial ascidians dominate at this subtropical site despite being highly preyed upon because they regrow when partially consumed and can adjust in shape and space to grow into refuges. We contend that these means of avoiding mortality from predation can have large influences on diversification patterns of colonial species at low latitudes, where predation intensity is greater.