BIOTIC Species Information for Lithothamnion corallioides
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Researched byAngus Jackson Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byDr Christine Maggs
Taxonomy
Scientific nameLithothamnion corallioides Common nameMaerl
MCS CodeZM236 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumRhodophycota Subphylum
Superclass ClassRhodophyceae
SubclassFlorideophycidae OrderCorallinales
Suborder FamilyCorallinaceae
GenusLithothamnion Speciescorallioides
Subspecies   

Additional InformationMaerl is a generic name for certain coralline algae that grow unattached on the sea bed. Only two instances of the crustose form of Lithothamnion corallioides have been recorded from the British Isles; in Dorset and Devon.
Taxonomy References Irvine & Chamberlain, 1994, Howson & Picton, 1997, Adey & McKibbin, 1970, Birkett et al., 1998,
General Biology
Growth formAlgal gravel
Feeding methodPhotoautotroph
Mobility/MovementNot relevant
See additional information
Environmental positionEpilithic
Typical food typesNot relevant HabitBed forming
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityNone (< 10 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
Height Growth Rate1-2 mm/year
Adult dispersal potential10-100m DependencyIndependent
SociabilityGregarious
Toxic/Poisonous?No
General Biology Additional InformationMobility is recorded as not relevant here since maerl does not fall into the available categories. It does have a crustose permanently attached form but this has only been recorded at 2 sites in the British Isles. It is typically found as an unattached plant. Maerl has been found in densities of up to 22,000 thalli per square metre. The proportion of live to dead nodules varies considerably. As far as is known, maerl continues to grow throughout its life but fragmentation limits the size of the nodules. Individual plants may reach up to 5 cm across. Maerl beds are highly species rich with 150 macroalgal species and over five hundred faunal species (of which 120 are molluscs) recorded as living on or in maerl beds (Birkett et al., 1998(a)); see the maerl biotope £IGS.Phy.HEc£ for further information. As far as is known, the maerl does not host any commensal or parasitic species. However, a few algae are almost entirely restricted to maerl communities e.g. the red algae Gelidiella calcicola, Gelidium maggsiae and the crustose Cruoria cruoriaeformis (Birkett et al., 1998(a)).
Biology References Irvine & Chamberlain, 1994, Adey & McKibbin, 1970, Donnan & Davies, 1996, Birkett et al., 1998, Potin et al., 1990, Grall & Glémarec, 1997, Birkett et al., 1998(a), Maggs & Guiry, 1987,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandPatchily distributed along the exposed western coasts of the southern British Isles. Locations include the west and south-west of Ireland, the south-west corner of Wales and a few sites off the south coast of England.
Global distributionWest and south-west British Isles south to the Canary Isles (unconfirmed records from Mauritania and Cape Verde). Also found in the Mediterranean.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range1-30 m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationOccurs most frequently at depths between 1-10 m. Occasionally found at depths of up to 30 m (for example Outer Galway Bay).

Substratum preferencesPebbles
Gravel / shingle
Maerl
Muddy gravel
Coarse clean sand
Fine clean sand
Sandy mud
Muddy sand
Mud
Mixed
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Strait / sound
Sealoch
Ria / Voe
Estuary
Biological zoneSublittoral Fringe
Upper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Wave exposureModerately Exposed
Sheltered
Very Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowStrong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
SalinityFull (30-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional Information
Distribution References Donnan & Davies, 1996, Birkett et al., 1998, Grall & Glémarec, 1997, Birkett et al., 1998(a), Hardy & Guiry, 2003, Hardy & Guiry, 2003,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeVegetative
Developmental mechanismInsufficient information
Reproductive SeasonInsufficient information Reproductive LocationInsufficient information
Reproductive frequencyInsufficient information Regeneration potential No
Life span51-100 years Age at reproductive maturityInsufficient information
Generation timeNot relevant FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule sizeInsufficient information Fertilization typeInsufficient information
Larvae/Juveniles
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential<10m Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stageNot relevant   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationMaerl beds in the Sound of Iona are recorded as containing dead nodules up to 4,000 years old. Insufficient information is available on reproductive frequency, fecundity and developmental mechanism. In Britain there is only one record of a fertile plant (found in July). Consequently virtually all propagation must be presumed to be vegetative and therefore dispersal potential is recorded as low. Plants from Brittany are mostly fertile in winter but Adey and McKibbin (1970) recorded a plant from Spain being fertile in August. Cabioch (1969) suggested Lithothamnion corallioides may have phasic reproduction with peaks every six years. This may account for observed changes in the relative proportions of live Lithothamnion corallioides and Phymatolithon calcareum nodules in maerl beds. Dominance cycles with periods of about thirty years have been recorded on some of the maerl beds of northern Brittany.
Reproduction References Irvine & Chamberlain, 1994, Adey & McKibbin, 1970, Birkett et al., 1998, Cabioch, 1969, Birkett et al., 1998(a),
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