Who cares about a vanishing clam? Trophic importance of Mulinia coloradoensis inferred from predatory damage

Carlos E. Cintra-Buenrostro, Karl Flessa, Guillermo Avila-Serrano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Analyses ofpredatory damage on subfossil hard parts can be used to document the trophic role played by species that were abundant prior to human impact even when pre-impact surveys are lacking or when predators have not left skeletal remains. Before upstream dams and water diversions, the bivalve Mulinia coloradoensis was the most common mollusk inhabiting the Colorado River Estuary. Today, only a small population has survived the environmental changes caused by reduction in the river flow. When abundant, this species was a major source of food for predatory gastropods and crabs, as shown by the characteristic damage inflicted by these predators. Boreholes made by predatory gastropods were found in 23% of the 600 individuals sampled from shell accumulations that date from the era prior to upstream dams and diversions. Marginal shell damage characteristic of predatory portunid crabs was found in 27% of the individuals. Thirty-four percent of the individuals had damage from earlier attacks. Shells were tumbled to provide criteria to distinguish ante-mortem biological damage to the shell margin from post-mortem, physical damage. Decline in the population of this prey species likely caused a decline in the populations of its predators and species higher in the food chain, prey-switching, or both effects. Restoration of river flow would increase populations of M. coloradoensis and species that depend on it for food, including commercially important crabs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-302
Number of pages7
JournalPalaios
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2005

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shell (molluscs)
clams
crabs
dams (hydrology)
damage
predators
shell
Gastropoda
crab
predator
river flow
Colorado River
gastropod
rivers
dam
food chain
molluscs
anthropogenic activities
skeletal remains
Bivalvia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Who cares about a vanishing clam? Trophic importance of Mulinia coloradoensis inferred from predatory damage. / Cintra-Buenrostro, Carlos E.; Flessa, Karl; Avila-Serrano, Guillermo.

In: Palaios, Vol. 20, No. 3, 06.2005, p. 296-302.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cintra-Buenrostro, Carlos E. ; Flessa, Karl ; Avila-Serrano, Guillermo. / Who cares about a vanishing clam? Trophic importance of Mulinia coloradoensis inferred from predatory damage. In: Palaios. 2005 ; Vol. 20, No. 3. pp. 296-302.
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