Dispersal, the movement of an individual away from its natal or breeding ground, has been studied extensively in birds and mammals to understand the costs and benefits of movement behavior. Whether or not invertebrates disperse in response to such attributes as habitat quality or density of conspecifics remains uncertain, due in part to the difficulties in marking and recapturing invertebrates. In the upper Bay of Fundy, Canada, the intertidal amphipod Corophium volutator swims at night around the new or full moon. Furthermore, this species is regionally widespread across a large spatial scale with site-to-site variation in population structure. Such variation provides a backdrop against which biological determinants of dispersal can be investigated. We conducted a large-scale study at nine mudflats, and used swimmer density, sampled using stationary plankton nets, as a proxy for dispersing individuals. We also sampled mud residents using sediment cores over 3 sampling rounds (20–28 June, 10–17 July, 2–11 August 2010). Density of swimmers was most variable at the largest spatial scales, indicating important population-level variation. The smallest juveniles and large juveniles or small adults (particularly females) were consistently overrepresented as swimmers. Small juveniles swam at most times and locations, whereas swimming of young females decreased with increasing mud presence of young males, and swimming of large juveniles decreased with increasing mud presence of adults. Swimming in most stages increased with density of mud residents; however, proportionally less swimming occurred as total mud resident density increased. We suggest small juveniles move in search of C. volutator aggregations which possibly act as a proxy for better habitat. We also suggest large juveniles and small adults move if potential mates are limiting. Future studies can use sampling designs over large spatial scales with varying population structure to help understand the behavioral ecology of movement, and dispersal in invertebrate taxa.

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069091
Journal PLoS ONE
Bringloe, T.T. (Trevor T.), Drolet, D. (David), Barbeau, M.A. (Myriam A.), Forbes, M, & Gerwing, T.G. (Travis G.). (2013). Spatial Variation in Population Structure and Its Relation to Movement and the Potential for Dispersal in a Model Intertidal Invertebrate. PLoS ONE, 8(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069091