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An intertidal snail shows a dramatic size increase over the past century

By Jonathan A. D. Fisher, Erika C. Rhile, Harrison Liu and Peter S. Petraitis


Changes in the shell architecture of marine snails enhance defenses and greatly improve survival against predators. In the northwest Atlantic Ocean, shorter and thicker shells have been reported for several species following the introduction of predatory Carcinus maenas crabs early in the 20th century. But we report that the shell lengths of Nucella lapillus actually increased by an average of 22.6% over the past century, with no evidence of shell thickening after correcting for shell length. The increases in shell length were greatest on sheltered shores, highlighting the interaction between wave exposure and the sampling period. Comparisons were based on archived shells collected in 1915–1922 from sites that were resampled in 2007. N. lapillus is an important member of North Atlantic marine ecosystems, and our results suggest that the impacts of historical changes in species' key morphological traits on marine ecosystems remain underappreciated

Topics: Biological Sciences
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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