Contributions to Zoology, 82 (1) – 2013Adriaan Gittenberger; Bert W. Hoeksema: Habitat preferences of coral-associated wentletrap snails (Gastropoda: Epitoniidae)

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Abstract

Examination of about 60,000 scleractinian corals of the families Dendrophylliidae, Euphylliidae and Fungiidae for the presence of associated wentletrap snails (Gastropoda: Epitoniidae) revealed various ectoparasitic life history strategies. Twenty Indo-Pacific wentletrap species were found, which were either host-specific or generalist. Most species were associated with mushroom corals, especially free-living species belonging to the Fungiidae. Snails showed different preferences with regard to their position relative to mushroom corals, the host’s size and its substrate. No preferences for depth were found. Infestation rates of mushroom corals in multi-species assemblages were negatively correlated with coral densities, which indicates that epitoniid veliger larvae may actively look for preferential hosts. Indirect proof was found that burrowing shrimps remove any epitoniid that is on or underneath the mushroom coral under which they have their burrow. Fishes like wrasses and damsel­fishes were seen to eat the snails the moment their host corals were overturned, which suggests that the host corals may provide the snails with protection against predators.