The vermetid gastropod Dendropoma maximum reduces coral growth and survival

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse systems on the planet; yet, only a small fraction of coral reef species have attracted scientific study. Here, we document strong deleterious effects of an often overlooked species-the vermetid gastropod, Dendropoma maximum-on growth and survival of reef-building corals. Our surveys of vermetids on Moorea (French Polynesia) revealed a negative correlation between the density of vermetids and the per cent cover of live coral. Furthermore, the incidence of flattened coral growth forms was associated with the presence of vermetids. We transplanted and followed the fates of focal colonies of four species of corals on natural reefs where we also manipulated presence/absence of vermetids. Vermetids reduced skeletal growth of focal corals by up to 81 per cent and survival by up to 52 per cent. Susceptibility to vermetids varied among coral species, suggesting that vermetids could shift coral community composition. Our work highlights the potential importance of a poorly studied gastropod to coral dynamics.

This paper was authored by Shima JS, Osenberg CW, and Stier AC (me). You can find a copy of the manuscript here, or contact me directly for a PDF. 

Adrian Stier