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The colonization of macroalgal rafts by the genus Idotea (sub-phylum Crustacea; order Isopoda): an active or passive process?

  • Emmett Clarkin (a1) (a2), Christine A. Maggs (a1) (a2), Gareth Arnott (a1), Sean Briggs (a1) and Jonathan D.R. Houghton (a1) (a2)...


The association of invertebrate communities with macroalgae rafts has received much attention over recent decades, yet significant gaps in our knowledge remain with respect to the colonization process. Using laboratory-based experiments and in situ field trials in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, this study investigated whether members of the known rafting genus Idotea (sub-phylum Crustacea; order Isopoda) could effectively colonize rafts after shore seaweed detachment, or if their presence merely reflected a passive marooning process. Test tank arenas were used to identify traits that may influence the rafting potential of the dominant shore species Idotea granulosa and the well known rafter Idotea baltica. When released mid-water, I. granulosa initially ascended and associated with floating seaweed whereas I. baltica tended to descend with no clear habitat association. These findings conflict with the differential distribution of these Idotea species among rafts and shore algae, thus highlighting the complex nature of the potential of organisms to raft. In the field we considered the relative ability of different Idotea species to colonize tethered rafts composed of Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus, cleaned of all vagile organisms and deployed at locations adjacent to established intertidal Idotea species populations. At the end of the experiment (after 44 days) rafts were inhabited by known rafting and shoreline species, confirming that colonization can occur after algal detachment. Previously considered shoreline species on occasion outnumbered well known rafters suggesting that a wide range of Idotea species can readily avail of macroalgal rafts as a potential dispersal mechanism or alternative habitat.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: E. Clarkin, School of Biological Sciences Queen's, University Belfast, Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, UK email:


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The colonization of macroalgal rafts by the genus Idotea (sub-phylum Crustacea; order Isopoda): an active or passive process?

  • Emmett Clarkin (a1) (a2), Christine A. Maggs (a1) (a2), Gareth Arnott (a1), Sean Briggs (a1) and Jonathan D.R. Houghton (a1) (a2)...


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