Spatial synchronies in the seasonal occurrence of larvae of oysters (Crassostrea gigas) and mussels (Mytilus edulis/galloprovincialis) in European coastal waters

Catharina J. M. Philippart, Ana Amaral, Ragnhild Asmus, Judith van Bleijswijk, Julie Bremner, Fred Buchholz, Miguel Cabanellas-Reboredo, Diana Catarino, Andre Cattrijsse, Francois Charles, Thierry Comtet, Alexandra Cunha, Salud Deudero, Jean-Claude Duchene, Simonetta Fraschetti, Franck Gentil, Arjan Gittenberger, Katell Guizien, Joao M. Goncalves, Giuseppe GuarnieriIris Hendriks, Birgit Hussel, Raquel Pinheiro Vieira, Bastian T. Reijnen, Iris Sampaio, Ester Serrao, Isabel Sousa Pinto, Eric Thiebaut, Frederique Viard, Alain F. Zuur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Reproductive cycles of marine invertebrates with complex life histories are considered to be synchronized by water temperature and feeding conditions, which vary with season and latitude. This study analyses seasonal variation in the occurrence of oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and mussel (Mytilus edulis/galloprovincialis) larvae across European coastal waters at a synoptic scale (1000s of km) using standardised methods for sampling and molecular analyses.

We tested a series of hypotheses to explain the observed seasonal patterns of occurrence of bivalve larvae at 12 European stations (located between 37 degrees N and 60 degrees N and 27 degrees W and 18 degrees E). These hypotheses included a model that stated that there was no synchronisation in seasonality of larval presence at all between the locations (null hypothesis), a model that assumed that there was one common seasonality pattern for all stations within Europe, and various models that supposed that the variation in seasonality could be grouped according to specific spatial scales (i.e., latitude, large marine ecosystems and ecoregions), taxonomic groups, or several combinations of these factors.

For oysters, the best models explaining the presence/absence of larvae in European coastal waters were (1) the model that assumed one common seasonal pattern, and (2) the one that, in addition to this common pattern, assumed an enhanced probability of occurrence from south to north. The third best model for oysters, with less empirical support than the first two, stated that oysters reproduced later in the south than in the north. For mussels, the best models explaining the seasonality in occurrence of larvae were (1) the model that assumed four underlying trends related to large marine ecosystems, and (2) the one that assumed one common seasonal pattern for larvae occurrence throughout Europe.

Such synchronies in larval occurrences suggest that environmental conditions relevant to bivalve larval survival are more or less similar at large spatial scales from 100s to 1000s of km. To unravel the underlying mechanisms for this synchronisation is of particular interest in the light of changing environmental conditions as the result of global climate change and the possible consequences for marine food webs and ecosystem services. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-63
Number of pages12
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Early online date28 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012
EventECSA 46 International Conference on Wadden Sea - Changes and Challenges in a World Heritage Site - List, Germany
Duration: 3 May 20106 May 2010


  • spatial synchrony
  • synoptic scale
  • larval occurrence
  • Crassostrea gigas
  • Mytilus edulis
  • Mytilus galloprovincialis

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