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Front Formation in Starfish

Rauch, Marijke (2019) Front Formation in Starfish. Research Project 2, Marine Biology.


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Consumer fronts are a well-known and often devastating occurrence that can alter entire ecosystems. One organism that is known to form such fronts is the common starfish, Asterias rubens, which is an important predator of the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, and could have a huge impact on commercial mussel cultivation. One theory for how these fronts might form is through density-dependent movement, where starfish move fast on bare substrate, and slow down as they reach the mussel bed. However, this theory is purely based on field observations of starfish behaviour, and until now has never been experimentally tested. To test this theory we first performed mesocosm experiments, designed to study the movement of starfish under different circumstances. Using the results of these experiments we then developed an individual-based model designed to simulate the movements of starfish on or near a mussel bed. Our simulations show that it is possible for starfish to form fronts through density-dependent movement alone, without the need for additional outside factors. Due to climate change, the impact of A. rubens on mussel seedbeds is likely to increase, as rising winter temperatures lengthen the period A. rubens is active. This insight into how starfish form feeding fronts thus becomes ever more important for the conservation of mussel beds for both ecological and commercial purposes.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 2)
Supervisor nameSupervisor E mail
Koppel, J. van
Degree programme: Marine Biology
Thesis type: Research Project 2
Language: English
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2019
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2019 11:00

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