Ecological dominance along rocky shores, with a focus on intertidal ascidians

Marc Rius, Peter R. Teske, Patricio H. Manríquez, Rocío Suárez-Jiménez, Christopher D. McQuaid, Juan Carlos Castilla

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The role of dominant species is of central importance in ecology. Such species play a key role in ecosystem structure, stability and function, regulating resource allocation across trophic levels and overall ecosystem productivity. Although ecological interactions between dominant and subordinate species are often considered to influence the latter negatively, the presence of dominant species can also be beneficial. These species commonly act as ecosystem engineers and enhance biodiversity by creating habitat for other species. Along rocky coastlines, dominant species are often sessile suspension-feeding organisms that can monopolize all available substrata. This is particularly noticeable in intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats where the number of species that achieve ecological dominance is limited. Here, we review the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that facilitate dominance along rocky coastlines. We then focus on a prominent example, the members of the Pyura stolonifera species complex (Tunicata), which are an emerging model system for studying ecological dominance. These ascidians achieve the highest biomass levels ever reported in rocky intertidal habitats and, when invasive, can fundamentally transform entire ecosystems. Finally, we discuss conservation implications and conclude with directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOceanography and Marine Biology
Subtitle of host publicationAn Annual Review
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781351987592
ISBN (Print)9781138197862
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Publication series

NameOceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review
ISSN (Print)0078-3218

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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