Resource Partitioning by Corallivorous Snails on Bonaire (Southern Caribbean)
Abstract: A biodiversity survey on three corallivorous snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda) was performed at 28 sites around the island of Bonaire to assess their distribution patterns and associated host corals. The snails and their hosts were identified and counted in three depth zones: 5–10, 10–20, and 20–30 m. The snails were Coralliophila galea and C. salebrosa (Muricidae: Coralliophilinae), and Cyphoma gibbosum (Ovulidae: Simniinae). All three species were widespread around the island without apparent interspecific geographical variation. Coralliophila galea was found exclusively on scleractinian corals, Coralliophila salebrosa almost exclusively on octocorals, and Cyphoma gibbosum only on octocorals. Coralliophila salebrosa showed more dietary overlap with Cyphoma gibbosum than with Coralliophila galea. Coralliophila galea was the most commonly encountered species with the largest number of host species. Owing to its hosts distribution, this species also showed a greater maximum depth and a wider bathymetrical range than the other two snails. The other two snails were shallower and their depth ranges did not differ significantly. Host-coral size did not seem to have influence on the number of snails per host. Coral damage caused by the snails was visible but appeared to be low, causing no mortality in Bonaire, which suggests that the relation with their hosts is more parasitic than predatory. Because these three corallivores have occasionally been reported to occur as outbreaks in other Caribbean localities and may act as vectors in the dispersal of coral diseases, it is recommended that future studies should focus on their population dynamics.