Meeting Abstract

S5-2.2  Thursday, Jan. 5  Ecology of Epibiosis: What Can We Learn From Marine Reptiles PFALLER, Joseph B.*; FRICK, Michael G.; BRISCHOUX, Francois E. O.; SHEEHY III, Coleman M.; LILLYWHITE, Harvey B.; Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Univ. of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX; Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL jpfaller@ufl.edu

Epibiosis occurs when one or more typically facultative colonizers (epibionts) live on or attached to a single host (basibiont), resulting in a spatially close association between the species involved. The maintenance of such associations involves a complex suite of ecological trade-offs. The study of epibiosis in marine snakes has a rich history of ancillary reports starting with Darwin (1851, 1854), yet very few accounts quantify the frequency of these interactions. Moreover, there has been limited discussion of the ecological factors that affect these interactions and the possible role that marine snakes play as epibiont hosts. Herein, we report eight previously undocumented epibionts associated with Pelamis platurus inhabiting the waters off the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica. These novel associations include the first records of motile epibionts from any marine snake and suggest that the propensity of P. platurus for foraging along surface aggregations of flotsam and neustron (i.e. ‘slicks’) facilitate the colonization of pelagic epibionts. The primary goals of this study were to better understand these novel associations by quantifying the frequency and intensity of their occurrence, and assessing the effect of snake size on these interactions. The secondary goals of this study were to provide a review of marine snake epibiosis and discuss what marine reptiles can teach us about the ecology of epibiosis. Supported by NSF IOS–0926802 to HBL.