Studies on southern Australian abalone (genus Haliotis). I. Ecology of five sympatric species
Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research
24(3) 217 - 258
Five species of abalone occur along the southern Australian coastline; of these three species, Haliotis laevigata Donovan, Haliotis roei Gray, and Haliotis ruber Leach, are of commercial importance; the other two species are Haliotis cyclobates Peron and Haliotis scalaris Leach.
The habitat, movement, feeding behaviour, food, and ecological relationships with predators were studied for each species at three study sites.
Each species of abalone occupies a distinctive microhabitat. H. cyclobates lives in calm-water places associated with communities of the seagrass Posidonia australis and the razor shell Pinna dolobrata; H. laevigata lives on open rock adjacent to sand in moderate to rough water localities; H. ruber prefers caves in calm- to rough-water localities; H. roei occurs in narrow crevices in the upper sublittoral on rough-water coasts ; H. scalaris is an under-boulder or crevice-living species. All species are sedentary, but may make local movements in search of food. Several species may occur in a given habitat but there is little microhabitat overlap.
The seasonal variation in food eaten by each species is described. All species show preference for red algae and reject most species of brown algae, subsisting predominantly on red algae and seagrasses according to the possibilities of the habitat. H. laevigata feeds mainly on algal drift and H. roei is substantially a grazing species. The other species feed on algal drift or graze opportunistically.
Water movement is an important environmental factor affecting the feeding of those species which feed on algal drift. H. laevigata and H. ruber feed best in conditions of moderate water movement but poorly if the water is too calm or too rough. Water movement elicits a characteristic feeding response in these species.
The predators of abalone include fish, crabs, molluscs, and starfish; their interaction with abalone is discussed.
Crevices, caves, and cavities under boulders provide a refuge in space from predators for H. roei, H. ruber, and H. scalaris and juveniles of other species, which appear to be confined to these places, except for nocturnal feeding excursions, by the activity of their predators.
The adults of the different species differ from each other in their dependence on water movement, their preference for open or cryptic sites such as crevices or caves for resting, their size and their methods of feeding. These differences between the species, taken together, ensure that there will be very little overlap between them in the sorts of places that they seek to live in or their behaviour in seeking food; in those cases where food-seeking behaviour is similar, interspecific competition would seem to be negligible because food is abundant. Predation would seem to have been more important than interspecific competition as the selective pressure that established and maintains these differences between the species.
Full text doi:10.1071/MF9730217
© CSIRO 1973