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Ecosystem engineers such as the Antarctic scallop (Adamussium colbecki) shape marine communities. Thus, changes to their lifespan and growth could have far-reaching effects on other organisms. Sea ice is critical to polar marine ecosystem function, attenuating light and thereby affecting nutrient availability. Sea ice could therefore impact longevity and growth in polar bivalves unless temperature is the overriding factor. Here, we compare the longevity and growth of A. colbecki from two Antarctic sites: Explorers Cove and Bay of Sails, which differ by sea-ice cover, but share similar seawater temperatures, the coldest on Earth (-1.97°C). We hypothesize that scallops from the multiannual sea-ice site will have slower growth and greater longevity. We found maximum ages to be similar at both sites (18–19 years). Growth was slower, with higher inter-individual variability, under multiannual sea ice than under annual sea ice, which we attribute to patchier nutrient availability under multiannual sea ice. Contrary to expectations, A. colbecki growth, but not longevity, is affected by sea-ice duration when temperatures are comparable. Recent dramatic reductions in Antarctic sea ice and predicted temperature increases may irrevocably alter the life histories of this ecosystem engineer and other polar organisms.
Life span bias potentially alters species abundance in death assemblages through the overrepresentation of short-lived organisms compared with their long-lived counterparts. Although previous work found that life span bias did not contribute significantly to live–dead discordance in bivalve assemblages, life span bias better explained discordance in two groups: longer-lived bivalve species and species with known life spans. More studies using local, rather than global, species-wide life spans and mortality rates would help to determine the prevalence of life span bias, especially for long-lived species with known life spans. Here, we conducted a field study at two sites in North Carolina to assess potential life span bias between Mercenaria mercenaria and Chione elevata, two long-lived bivalve species that can be aged directly. We compared the ability of directly measured local life spans with that of regional and global life spans to predict live–dead discordance between these two species. The shorter-lived species (C. elevata) was overrepresented in the death assemblage compared with its live abundance, and local life span data largely predicted the amount of live–dead discordance; local life spans predicted 43% to 88% of discordance. Furthermore, the global maximum life span for M. mercenaria resulted in substantial overpredictions of discordance (1.4 to 1.6 times the observed live–dead discordance). The results of this study suggest that life span bias should be considered as a factor affecting proportional abundances of species in death assemblages and that using life span estimates appropriate to the study locality improves predictions of discordance based on life span compared with using global life span estimates.