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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCB Moorea Class: Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands is an intensive field course (13 units), taught every Fall semester by UC Berkeley. A highly selective group of 20-22 undergraduate students spend a month on campus in Berkeley for lectures and labs five days a week, then go to the Richard Gump Biological Station on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia for nine weeks to carry out an intensive research project and to do some general educational field trips and labs, supervised by a number of professors and graduate student instructors. They learn all the stages of scientific research from conception of a project to giving talks and and writing. These papers are the result of their research.

Cover page of Distribution and Dispersal of the South Pacifc Tree, Fagraea Berteriana (Loganiaceae)

Distribution and Dispersal of the South Pacifc Tree, Fagraea Berteriana (Loganiaceae)

(2006)

Tahitian legend states Fagraea berteriana is a gift of repentance from the god, Tane. The scientific community knows little more about this tree than its inter-island distribution in the South Pacific. I surveyed the island of Moorea to map an intra-island distribution of F. berteriana and quantify environmental characteristics surrounding the tree’s growth. I tested dispersal hypotheses by collecting bird observations and conducting seed germination experiments that included a numer of seed scarification treatments. The tree occurred in densities ranging from 44 to 244 trees/hectare and at elevations spanning from approximately 300 to 900 m. Density differed with significance between two sites, Tohiea and the Cross Island Trail. Tree density increased with greater elevations and more southerly aspects. Ninety-five percent of the trees sampled grew on slopes greater than 80%. There was no correlation between tree density and slope or between density and tree height. Tree density did not significantly differ between three substrate types: rock, rocky soil, and soil. I observed Silvereyes and Red-vented bulbuls consuming F. berteriana fruits and germination from seeds, although at a less than 1% rate. The germination success and bird observations served as a preliminary investigation of the dispersal of F. berteriana and fostered ideas concerning worthwhile future directions of study.

Cover page of Predator Defense Mechanisms in Shallow Water Sea Cucumbers (Holothuroidea)

Predator Defense Mechanisms in Shallow Water Sea Cucumbers (Holothuroidea)

(2006)

The various predator defense mechanisms possessed by shallow water sea cucumbers were surveyed in twelve different species and morphs. While many defense mechanisms such as the presence of Cuverian tubules, toxic secretions, and unpalatability have been identified in holothurians, I hypothesized that the possession of these traits as well as the degree to which they are utilized varies from species to species. The observed defense mechanisms were compared against a previously-derived phylogeny of the sea cucumbers of Moorea. Furthermore, I hypothesized that while the presence of such structures is most likely a result of the species’ placement on a phylogenetic tree, the degree to which they utilize such structures and their physical behavior are influenced by their individual ecologies. The presence of a red liquid secretion was restricted to individuals of the genus Holothuria (Linnaeus 1767) however not all members of the genus exhibited this trait. With the exception of H. leucospilota, which possessed both Cuverian tubules and a red secretion, Cuverian tubules were observed in members of the genus Bohadschia (Ostergren 1896). In accordance with the hypothesis, both the phylogenetics and individual ecology appear to influence predator defense mechanisms. However, even closely related species of similar ecology may differ considerably.

Cover page of Differences in the Diunral and Nocturnal Defense Mechanisms of Octopus Bocki (Adams, 1941)

Differences in the Diunral and Nocturnal Defense Mechanisms of Octopus Bocki (Adams, 1941)

(2006)

Octopuses are known for the advanced behaviors and elaborate displays used in predator avoidance. Although studies have provided anecdotal evidence on the defense mechanisms of these animals, whether these behaviors vary under light and dark conditions is unknown. This study investigated the diurnal and nocturnal predator defense mechanism s of Octopus bocki (Adams, 1941) in Moorea, French Polynesia. Seven behaviors were identified as primary defense mechanisms for protection from fish predators during daylight and nighttime hours. Rates of occurrence and durations for defense behaviors significantly differed between diurnal and nocturnal conditions, as O. bocki frequently Crawled during the daylight hours , but sat still and Curled during the nighttime hours. Results indicate that O. bocki modifies predator defense behaviors for survival under light and dark conditions.

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Cover page of Feeding Preference of the Cushion Star, Culcita Novaeguineae in Mo’orea

Feeding Preference of the Cushion Star, Culcita Novaeguineae in Mo’orea

(2006)

Previous studies of the feeding biology of Culcita novaeguineae Muller & Troschel in Hawai’i have shown that the cushion star prefers to prey on coral species of the genus Pocillopora over the genus Porites. Distribution and feeding biology studies of C. novaeguineae in Cook’s Bay on the island of Mo’orea, French Polynesia have shown that it habitats near Porites spp. coral in areas where Porites spp. coral is sparse, and prefers to prey on Acropora spp. coral. The purpose of this study was to further examine coral prey preference of C. novaeguineae in Mo’orea, using specimens from four areas on the island for better representation of its feeding ecology on Mo’orea, French Polynesia. My studies showed that C. novaeguineae in Mo’orea prefers Acropora spp. and Pocillopora spp., over Porites spp. (p=0.0046), and showed no preference for Acropora spp., over Pocillopora spp.. The study further determined that C. novaeguineae primarily feeds nocturnally, and moves persistently in search for food. As a coral predator, C. novaeguineae can affect abundance of certain coral species, and change the overall reef ecology in Mo’orea.

Cover page of Mutiny on the Bounty or Bountiful Mutants? Diversity and Composition of Wood-Decaying Macrofungi on Hibiscus Tiliaceus Wood in French Polynesia

Mutiny on the Bounty or Bountiful Mutants? Diversity and Composition of Wood-Decaying Macrofungi on Hibiscus Tiliaceus Wood in French Polynesia

(2006)

Wood-decaying macrofungi are an important component of forest ecosystems because they are the major decomposers of dead woody debris and are crucial for nutrient cycling. This is especially true in the tropics where biomass is high. However, most studies to date have focused on temperate forests in the northern hemisphere. Little is known about wood-inhabiting fungi in French Polynesia. In fact, no identification materials exist. The following study seeks to fill this gap in knowledge. First, a general survey was done of the wood-fungi occurring in the mountains of Moorea. Next, in a pilot study, all Hibiscus tiliaceus dead wood (>1cm) was measured and surveyed for fungi using 10, 25-meter line transects. The aim of this phase was to determine if wood with fungi has different characteristics than wood without. Fungi were found on 61% of wood surveyed, but larger logs, and wood of intermediate decay were more likely to have at least one species. An additional 20 transects focused only on wood with fungi. A total of 114 species were found on 644 pieces of Hibiscus tiliaceus wood. However, 36.8% species were found only once and most wood had only 1 or 2 species. There were a few very abundant species, and the others were rare. When common species were examined individually, it was evident that many had preferences for certain wood sizes and decomposition. Species richness was found to positively correlate with average diameter, and wood of intermediate decay was also found to have greater species richness. In general, the results of this study were found to support much of the research conducted in temperate forests. Although the details differ, the underlying trends of diversity and succession are surprisingly similar.

Cover page of Does the River Continuum Concept Work in Small Island Streams? Functional Feeding Group Variation Along a Longitudinal Gradient

Does the River Continuum Concept Work in Small Island Streams? Functional Feeding Group Variation Along a Longitudinal Gradient

(2006)

The River Continuum Concept (RCC) predicts that as the form of particulate organic matter available in streams and rivers varies longitudinally, so will the functional feeding groups (FFGs) of benthic macroinvertebrates. The RCC was developed based on data from continental streams; therefore, its applicability to the unique ecology of island streams is virtually untested. The purpose of this study was to discover if the RCC works in the small streams of Moorea, French Polynesia. Three sites along an elevational gradient were sampled for benthic macroinvertebrates in five streams of similar catchment size. Each sample was sorted and all taxa were assigned to a FFG. Species richness and FFG variation along a longitudinal gradient were compared to RCC predictions. Patterns in the longitudinal variation of crustacean/mollusc species richness and shredder, grazer, and predator percent composition were found to match RCC predictions. However, total species richness, insect species richness, and the percent composition of collecting organisms did not. Therefore, an alternative theoretical framework is needed to accurately describe FFG variation in tropical streams.

Cover page of Christmas Colors : Colormorph Distribution of Spirobranchus Giganteus Pallas 1766 on Moorea, French Polynesia

Christmas Colors : Colormorph Distribution of Spirobranchus Giganteus Pallas 1766 on Moorea, French Polynesia

(2006)

Spirobranchus giganteus Pallas 1766 is an obligate associate of coral. This study focused on the distribution of five branchial crown colormorphs (Blue, Brown, Marigold, Purple, and White) on eight coral species (Acropora I, Acropora II, Porites I, Porites II, Porites III, Porites IV, Porites V, Porites VI) by quadrat sampling method. White was the most abundant colormorph, representing 24.0% of the total. Blue was the least abundant colormorph at 9.5% of the total. There were no significant differences in Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index (H’) of colormorphs between coral species. Also, relative colormorph abundance did not differ significantly between coral species or between the Front and Back positions. Only Blue and Marigold differed significantly in relative abundance between Top, Midde, and Bottom positions. Findings support a colormorph distribution of colormorphs. There are two possible explanations: 1) mortality and selection effects on distribution and 2) phenotypic plasticity, a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributing to the occurrence of certain phenotypes.

Cover page of Insect Biodiversity and Assessment of Herbivory in Native and Non-Native Plants in Mo’orea, French Polynesia

Insect Biodiversity and Assessment of Herbivory in Native and Non-Native Plants in Mo’orea, French Polynesia

(2006)

The objective of this study was to determine if the distribution of insect species and presence of herbivory differed between native and non-native plants in the coastal region of Mo'orea, French Polynesia. Therefore, four native plant species (Barringtonia asiatica, Hibiscus tiliaceus, Terminalia catappa, Thespesia populnea) and four non-native plant species (Carica papaya, Mangifera spp., Morinda citrifolia, Musa spp.) were sampled. Each collected insect was tested for herbivory, and placed in a cup with a 2X1in. piece of undamaged leaf from the tree it was found and frequently checked for damage. Significantly greater insect species abundance was found on native plants compared to non-native plants (p=0.0431). No significant difference was found in richness (p=0.6409) or diversity (p=0.8451) between native and non-native plants. Significantly more herbivory damage was observed on the whole tree in native plants (p=0.0001). The herbivory trials found more cases of herbivory damage in non-native plants compared to native plants, 14 cases and 10 cases respectively, but more total area damaged in native plants compared to non-native plants, with 5.015% and 4.18% damage respectively. No significant differences were found between abundance and height of sampling, richness and height of sampling, or diversity and height of sampling (p=0.1108, 0.0933, and 0.07695). No significant differences were found between abundance and tree height, richness and tree height, or diversity and tree height (p=0.5305, 0.6156, 0.7805). The results show that there is more insect abundance and more herbivory damage in native plants, suggesting that generalist herbivores are feeding on non-native plants while specialist and generalist herbivores are feeding on native plants.

Cover page of Resource Partitioning By Wintering Shorebirds : A Behavioral Comparison of Two Species in a Tropical Estuary

Resource Partitioning By Wintering Shorebirds : A Behavioral Comparison of Two Species in a Tropical Estuary

(2006)

Shorebirds often feed in multispecies groups that display interesting niche dynamics. On Moorea, French Polynesia, the Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) and Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) are the dominant shorebird species during the northern winter. These species’ feeding behavior was observed at the Temae estuary on the northeast side of the island. Relative abundance of the two species was determined using transect counts at the estuary and an adjacent beach. T. incana displayed more striking and sprinting behavior, while P. fulva displayed more picking and walking behavior. T. incana also consumed more crabs than P. fulva. The two species existed in relatively equal abundance in the estuary; T. incana was more common on the beach. Though these data suggest some differences in feeding niche, a great deal of overlap was observed. The degree of niche partitioning appears to be greater in this study than in similar studies conducted on these species’ breeding grounds.

Cover page of Displays of Defense : Behavioral Differences in Antagonist Avoidance in Four Opisthobranch Mollusks

Displays of Defense : Behavioral Differences in Antagonist Avoidance in Four Opisthobranch Mollusks

(2006)

The defensive behaviors of four opisthobranchs (Glossodoris cincta, Risbecia imperials, Stylochelius striatus, and Dolabrifera dolabrifera) were observed and categorized. The displays studied were mantle flexation, mucus production, mantle secretion, inking, and rearing. Members of each species were placed in two laboratory situations containing two different antagonists. The antagonists (Dardanus lagopodes and Lutjanus fulvus) were chosen because they were carnivorous, abundant, and found in the same ecology as the opisthobranchs studied. Additionally, they were chosen because they differed phylogenetically, physiologically, and behaviorally and, therefore, represented two very different predators. In some cases, individuals exhibited different defensive behaviors in the presence of different antagonists. Differential responses could reflect physiological, biological, or phylogenetic differences between the four observed opisthobranch species. In some instances, defensive displays were observed across lineages.