|Basic Information||Biotope classification||Ecology||Habitat preferences and distribution||Species composition||Sensitivity||Importance|
Image Rohan Holt - Dense Virgularia and Sagartiogeton. Image with ca XX cm.
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SS.IMU.MarMu.PhiVir recorded () and expected () distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)
The characterizing and other species in this biotope occupy space in the habitat but their presence is most likely primarily determined by the occurrence of a suitable substratum rather by interspecific interactions. Virgularia mirabilis and Philine aperta are functionally dissimilar and are not necessarily associated with each other but occur in the same muddy sediment habitats. There is no information regarding possible interactions between any of the other species in the biotope but there seems to little interdependence. Burrowing species which are present create tunnels in the sediment which themselves provide a habitat for other burrowing or inquilinistic species.
Virgularia mirabilis might be adversely affected by high levels of megafaunal bioturbation, perhaps by preventing the survival of newly settled colonies.
Many of the species living in deep mud biotopes are generally cryptic in nature and not usually subject to predation. Evidence of predation on Virgularia mirabilis by fish seems limited to a report by Marshall & Marshall (1882 in Hoare & Wilson, 1977) where the species was found in the stomach of haddock. Many specimens of Virgularia mirabilis lack the uppermost part of the colony which has been attributed to nibbling by fish. Observations by Hoare & Wilson (1977) suggest however, that predation pressure on this species is low. The sea slug Armina loveni is a specialist predator of Virgularia mirabilis.
Nephrops norvegicus is known to be eaten by a variety of bottom-feeding fish, including cod, haddock, skate and dogfish. Symbion pandora, a tiny sessile animal less than 1 mm long, lives commensally on the mouthparts of Nephrops norvegicus.
Brittlestars are common, with Amphiura chiajei predominating on finer muds. Most of these animals are deposit-feeders, ingesting tiny organic particles and feeding on the bacterial layer coating the sediment grains. If present in high abundance the burrowing and feeding activities of Amphiura chiajei can modify the fabric and increase the mean particle size of the upper layers of the substrata by aggregation of fine particles into faecal pellets. Such actions create a more open fabric with a higher water content which affects the rigidity of the seabed (Rowden et al., 1998(b)). Such destabilisation of the seabed can affect rates of particle resuspension.
The hydrodynamic regime, which in turn controls sediment type, is the primary physical environmental factor structuring benthic communities such as IMU.PhiVir. The hydrography also affects the water characteristics in terms of salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen. It is also widely accepted that food availability (see Rosenberg, 1995) and disturbance, such as that created by storms, (see Hall, 1994) are also important factors determining the distribution of species in benthic habitats.
This review can be cited as follows:
Hill, J.M. & Wilson, E. 2005. Philine aperta and Virgularia mirabilis in soft stable infralittoral mud. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 19/05/2013]. Available from: <http://www.marlin.ac.uk/habitatecology.php?habitatid=202&code=1997>