The spread of Elminius modestus darwin in north-west europe

  • Crisp D
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Material collected prior to 1940 indicates that Elminius modestus was not present on British coasts at that time. Elminius increased in abundance in south-east England from 1946 to 1950 and extended its range as far as the Humber, where it halted. Its advance westwards along the south coast was similarly halted at Portland, but by 1948 independent colonies had been established in several of the river systems of Devon and Cornwall, in Milford Haven, and in the Bristol Channel. The first populations in the Irish Sea were in Morecambe Bay. From there Elminius spread rapidly south and west along the north coast of Wales, and more slowly north and west towards Galloway, eventually bridging the sea to the Isle of Man. Detailed observations showed that Elminius advanced along the uniformly favourable north coast of Wales as a definite front moving at a rate of approximately 20–30 km per year. Around Anglesey where tidal currents were stronger it appeared simultaneously in many scattered centres. A distinction is drawn between marginal dispersal taking place under the influence of normal agencies at the boundary of an existing population, and remote dispersal due to an artificial or freak transport over a long distance. In the case of Elminius the maximum distance that is likely to be bridged by marginal dispersal in the absence of strong residual drifts is about 30 miles. Elminius probably first appeared near Southampton, and was introduced into the Thames estuary area probably by remote dispersal. Thence it spread along the east coast and was transported to Holland. Its extension into south Devon, the Bristol Channel, the Irish Sea, and to the French coast must also be attributed to remote dispersal. The main ecological effects of Elminius result from competition for space with Balanus balanoides. Since Elminius breeds in summer, its dominance has a profound effect on the composition of the summer plankton, greatly increasing the number of barnacle nauplii, presumably at the expense of other larvae.

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  • D. J. Crisp

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