Sea urchins play a crucial role in the health and dynamics of reef ecosystems. Diadema mexicanum is a dominant grazer and erosive agent of the substratum in reef environments in the eastern tropical Pacific. Its reported distribution extends from the middle of the Gulf of California (26° N) to northern Peru (6°23′ S), including oceanic islands. Here, we report the occurrence of Diadema mexicanum in Isla San Jorge (31°0′38.53″ N, 113°14′34.84″ W), the northernmost island in the Gulf of California, which extends its range an additional 600 km northward. Sea urchins, ranging in test size from 4.5 to 12.4 cm, were present at 2–6 m in October 2015. This test size was one of the largest reported for this species in the eastern tropical Pacific. Spine length in sea urchins in the upper gulf ranged from 3.3 to 15.6 cm. Variation in body size of sea urchin may reflect variation in more structurally complex reefs from isolated islands that provide shelter from predation. The reef structure of Isla San Jorge is formed by high coral cover of the scleractinian coral Porites panamensis, with an average colony height of 26.27 cm (standard error, SE ±1.58, n = 60), similar to coral reef communities of the southern Gulf of California. Although D. mexicanum is considered a great force of erosion to the substratum in reef environments in the eastern tropical Pacific, no evidence of erosion was observed at Isla San Jorge, indicating a balanced dynamic between herbivores, macroalgae, and corals.
Marine Biodiversity – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 20, 2016
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