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Biology/Natural History: This is a very common high intertidal limpet along the Pacific coast. Feeds on microscopic algae coating the rocks, and on newly settled barnacles. Often found aggregating in cracks. Many individuals of this species are homing, and have a place on the rock that they return to. They stay fairly close to their home territory (within about 1 meter). An average foray is about 13 cm long. Their shell matches a shell scar on the rocks that they return to, helping deter predation and limit desiccation (they secrete a mucus seal between their shell and the rock when at rest). Limpets living with goose barnacles have a different shell form than do those living on rocks. Those on goose barnacles have a higher shell which is white with dark lines or chevrons. Predators include birds such as black oystercatchers and gulls, and fish such as surfperch, seaperch, and pileperch. They spawn by broadcasting their eggs and sperm, in winter and spring in Oregon. Maximum size is reached in 5 years. The shell can become heavily eroded and pitted by the parasitic fungus Pharcidia balani (Didymella conchae).

Although Lottia digitalis and Lottia ostrodigitalis look nearly identical to one another they exhibit habitat partitioning in the areas of California where they overlap (are sympatric). In sympatric areas the L. digitalis feeding on rocks are generally found lower than L. austrodigitalis feeding on rocks. Both species have two different morphs: One morph is found on gooseneck barnacles (Pollicipes polymerus) and occurs in the mid-intertidal while the other morph feeds on rocks higher in the intertidal.


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© Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory

Source: Invertebrates of the Salish Sea

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