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Movement and home range of pink abalone Haliotis corrugata: Implications for restoration and population recovery

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Densities of abalone in southern California have been dramatically reduced by overfishing and disease, leading to the collapse of some populations, and low fertilization rates may be hindering population recovery. This is a pattern typical of abalone species globally. However, movement may produce clustered distributions that promote fertilization success in broadcast spawners, such as abalone, even at low regional densities. We translocated wild, adult pink abalone Haliotis corrugata to an existing pink abalone patch to create a high-density aggregation, and then used acoustic telemetry to characterize abalone movement and monitor aggregation maintenance for a period of 14 mo in the Point Loma kelp forest near San Diego, California. Abalone showed a minimal flight response to handling that did not differ between the resident or translocated groups. Most individuals exhibited small home ranges (median area 183 m2) and homing behavior consisting of regular back-and-forth movement to a single point. Nomadic movement was also observed in several individuals. Though site fidelity may help maintain aggregations, abalone density decreased, and nearest neighbor distances increased at our site to nearinitial levels after 18 mo via a combination of mortality, large movements of a few individuals, and small, incremental movements of most individuals. No coordinated movements that would suggest spawning behavior were observed. Translocation of wild abalone to produce aggregations may not result in high rates of fertilization success that promote population recovery. However, the homing behavior observed may provide more opportunities for mating than expectations based on static measures of density and aggregation state. © Inter-Research 2013.

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