Revista chilena de historia natural
versión impresa ISSN 0716-078X
SANHUEZA, ALVARO G; NAVARRETE, ARTURO H; OPAZO, L. FELIPE y CAMUS, PATRICIO A. Trophic characterization of the intertidal placophoran Enoplochiton niger in northern Chile: environmental variation and dietary patterns at local and regional levels. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2008, vol.81, n.4, pp. 533-546. ISSN 0716-078X. http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0716-078X2008000400007.
The role and impact of herbivores on rocky intertidal food webs could be more complex and diverse than previously considered, particularly in the case of larger and more abundant consumers such as the placophoran mollusc Enoplochiton niger. This species is one of the largest (up to 20 cm) and ecologically most important grazers on rocky shores of northern Chile, but also one of the lesser known species in trophic terms. This work presents an assessment of the dietary patterns of E. niger in four communities of northern Chile, distributed along 1,000 km of coastline and sampled seasonally from winter 2004 to autumn 2006. The analysis included the relationship of its diet with physical and biological factors, and particularly the potential effect of the 2004-2005 El Niño event that occurred during the study period. At a regional level, the dietary spectrum of E. niger comprised a total of 98 food resources (60 algal Ítems and 38 invertebrate Ítems), and the most important Ítems were sessile organisms of encrusting and layer-forming growth habits. E. niger exhibited a very high niche breadth at both local and regional levels (ranging from 20.7 to 28.0; Levins' index), and its dietary richness at the individual level was independent from its body size. Both the number of dietary ítems consumed per individual and the taxonomic composition of the diet did not show statistical differences among communities, but they were significantly different between the El Niño and non-El Niño periods. There was no clear relationship between the dietary patterns of E. niger and the contrasting levels of upwelling intensity among the communities studied. The results show that E. niger is a generalist polyphagous consumer, and a potential omnivore, which could have a high level of impact on space occupancy patterns in the intertidal community.
Palabras clave : chiton; body size; omnivory; upwelling; El Niño.