Sympatric sea urchin species are usually considered to belong to the same grazer guild. Nevertheless, their role in community dynamics may vary due to species-specific morphological traits, feeding preferences and foraging behavior. In the Mediterranean Sea, the two species Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula co-occur in barren areas. Whereas P. lividus is usually considered responsible for creating a barren ground, the roles of the two sea urchin species in its maintenance are currently unclear. The relative and combined effects of P. lividus and A. lixula on maintaining the benthic community in the barren state were tested experimentally, using orthogonal exclusion of the two species. Results show that exclusion of A. lixula, regardless of the presence of P. lividus, led to a significant decrease in the surface of bare rock and a significant change of the algal assemblages, thus demonstrating the major role of this species in maintaining the barren state.
Bonaviri, C., Vega Fernandez, T., Fanelli, G., Badalamenti, F., Gianguzza P (2011). Leading role of the sea urchin Arbacia lixula in maintaining the barren state in southwestern Mediterranean. MARINE BIOLOGY, 158, 2505-2513 [10.1007/s00227-011-1751-2].