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NUDIBRANCH NEIGHBORHOOD: THE DISTRIBUTION OF TWO NUDIBRANCH SPECIES (CHROMODORIS LOCHI AND CHROMODORIS SP.) IN COOK’S BAY, MO’OREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

Abstract

Benthic invertebrates are vital not only for the place they hold in the trophic web of the marine ecosystem, but also for the incredible diversity that they add to the world. This is especially true of the dorid nudibranchs (family Dorididae), a group of specialist predators that are also the most diverse family in a clade of shell-less gastropods. Little work has been done on the roles that environment and behavior play on distribution patterns of dorid nuidbranchs. By carrying out habitat surveys, I found that two species of dorid nudibranchs (Chromodoris lochiandChromodorissp.) occupy different habitats in Cook’s Bay. Behavioral interaction tests showed that both species orient more reliably toward conspecifics than toward allospecifics.C. lochihas a greater propensity to aggregate thanChromodorissp. These findings indicated that the distribution patterns are a result of both habitat preference and aggregation behaviors. Further inquiry into these two areas is needed to make additional conclusions on the forces driving distribution. Information in this area is necessary to inform future conservation decisions. 

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