MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Spiral wrack (Fucus spiralis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

An intertidal brown seaweed, found on the high shore. It grows up to 40 cm long, without air bladders and lives for up to 4 years. The species can tolerate a high level of desiccation. Fronds have a characteristic ridge along the edge of the receptacles.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

All coasts of Britain and Ireland

Global distribution

Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, UK, Ireland, Atlantic coast of France, Spain, Morocco, Azores, East coast of America from New Jersey to Nova Scotia and isolated reports in the Northern Pacific.

Habitat

Fucus spiralis attaches to rocky substrata on sheltered to moderately exposed shores. It lives on the upper shore below the zone of Pelvetia canaliculata and above Fucus vesiculosus and Ascophyllum nodosum.

Depth range

Not relevant

Identifying features

  • Frond with smooth margin.
  • Prominent midrib.
  • Without air bladders.
  • Frond often twisted.
  • Round reproductive bodies at ends of branches, which are almost round in outline and surrounded by a narrow rim of sterile frond.

Additional information

A number of discrete forms of this species have been recorded. In the UK, a diminutive form Fucus spiralis nanus is relatively common.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

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Biology review

Taxonomy

PhylumOchrophyta
ClassPhaeophyceae
OrderFucales
FamilyFucaceae
GenusFucus
AuthorityLinnaeus, 1753
Recent Synonyms

Biology

Typical abundanceHigh density
Male size rangeUp to 40cm
Male size at maturity3cm
Female size range3cm
Female size at maturity
Growth formFoliose
Growth rate1.1cm/month
Body flexibility
Mobility
Characteristic feeding methodAutotroph
Diet/food source
Typically feeds on
Sociability
Environmental positionEpifloral
DependencyIndependent.
SupportsNone
Is the species harmful?No

Biology information

Fucus spiralis spends up to 90 percent of the time out of the water. It can tolerate a high level of desiccation, being able to survive 70 to 80 percent water loss. Distinct varieties of Fucus spiralis have been recognised, such as Fucus spiralis forma nanus, which is a dwarf form present on exposed shores. Fucus spiralis also hybridises with Fucus vesiculosus providing considerable difficulty in identification.

Habitat preferences

Physiographic preferencesStrait / sound, Sea loch / Sea lough, Ria / Voe, Estuary
Biological zone preferencesLower littoral fringe
Substratum / habitat preferencesBedrock, Cobbles, Large to very large boulders, Small boulders
Tidal strength preferencesModerately Strong 1 to 3 knots (0.5-1.5 m/sec.), Strong 3 to 6 knots (1.5-3 m/sec.), Very Weak (negligible), Weak < 1 knot (<0.5 m/sec.)
Wave exposure preferencesModerately exposed, Sheltered, Very sheltered
Salinity preferencesFull (30-40 psu), Reduced (18-30 psu), Variable (18-40 psu)
Depth rangeNot relevant
Other preferencesNo text entered
Migration PatternNon-migratory / resident

Habitat Information

Fucus spiralis favours rocks with many cracks and fissures, which probably provide some protection for developing zygotes and adult plants. It can extend into estuaries up to the 10 psu isohaline. The presence or absence of suitable substrata is considered to be one of the most important factors determining the distribution of Fucus spiralis.

Life history

Adult characteristics

Reproductive typePermanent (synchronous) hermaphrodite
Reproductive frequency Annual episodic
Fecundity (number of eggs)No information
Generation time2-5 years
Age at maturity2 years
SeasonJuly - August
Life span2-5 years

Larval characteristics

Larval/propagule type-
Larval/juvenile development Not relevant
Duration of larval stageNo information
Larval dispersal potential No information
Larval settlement periodInsufficient information

Life history information

Fucus spiralis is hermaphroditic. Receptacles are initiated during late January to February, gametes discharged during July and August, and the receptacles shed by November, although exact timing of reproduction depends on location and the form of the plant. Young plants usually reach a length of 8 to 10 cm or more before they form receptacles. Reproduction usually begins before or during the second years growth. Vegetative recruitment occurs by the formation of new fronds from existing holdfasts. This form of reproduction is important in existing stands of the population, whereas recruitment by eggs is more important in disturbed areas or in areas where germlings are protected e.g. rock crevices.

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Physical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate High
Fucus spiralis is permanently attached to the substratum so would be removed upon substratum loss. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
High High Moderate Moderate
The effects of smothering would depend on the state of the tide when the factor occurred. If smothering happened when the plant was emersed, all surfaces of the plant would be buried under the sediment preventing photosynthesis. If smothering occurred while the plant was immersed some of the plant would escape burial allowing the plant continue photosynthesis. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Increased siltation would cover some of the frond surfaces reducing photosynthesis and growth rates. Upon return to normal siltation levels the growth rate would be quickly restored.
No information
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus spiralis can tolerate desiccation until the water content has been reduced to 10-20% (Lüning, 1990). If water is lost beyond this critical level irreversible damage occurs. As the plant lives at the upper limit of it's physiological tolerance the plant cannot tolerate increased desiccation and the upper limit of the species distribution on the shore would become depressed. Decreased desiccation may allow the plant to grow further up the shore and may result in the species being competitively displaced by faster growing species. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus spiralis can tolerate an emersion period of 1-2 days. If emersion lasted for longer than this, the plant would suffer from desiccation and nutrient stress and the upper limit of the species distribution on the shore would become depressed. A reduction in the period of emersion may result in the species being competitively displaced by faster growing species and may allow Fucus spiralis to grow further up the shore. Recovery would be high because the species has been observed to rapidly recruit to cleared areas of the shore.
No information
Intermediate High Low Low
An increase in water flow rate may cause some of the plants to be torn off the substratum. Decreases in water flow rate are unlikely to have any effect. Fucus spiralis has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
No information
Low Not relevant NR High
Fucus spiralis can tolerate temperatures from -0.5 to 28 °C. The species is well within it's temperature range in the UK. Decreases in temperature are unlikely to have any effect because the species extends into northern Norway where water temperatures are cooler. Increase in temperature may be beneficial because the optimum temperature for growth of the species is 15 degrees C (Lüning, 1990). However the species showed suffered some damage during the unusually hot summer of 1983 when temperatures were on average 8.3 degrees C higher than normal (Hawkins & Hartnoll, 1985).
No information
Low High Low Moderate
The species would only be affected by turbidity when it is covered in water, due to a reduction in the light available for photosynthesis. However, Fucus spiralis spends up to 90 percent of it's time out of the water and can photosynthesise effectively in air, so it would not be affected significantly by a change in turbidity.
No information
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus spiralis lives on sheltered to moderately exposed shores. Increases in wave exposure beyond this would result in plants and germlings being torn off the substratum or mobilisation of substratum with the plants attached. Decreases in waves exposure are unlikely to have any effect, because the species occurs in very sheltered conditions. Fucus spiralis has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
No information
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Not relevant
Seaweeds have no known mechanisms for perception of noise.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Not relevant
Seaweeds have no known mechanism for visual perception.
Intermediate High Low Low
Abrasion may kill germlings and damage the fronds of established seaweeds. Fucoids are intolerant of abrasion from human trampling, which has been shown to reduce the cover of seaweeds on a shore (Holt et al., 1997). Germlings are probably particularly intolerant of this factor. Fucus spiralis has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus spiralis is permanently attached to the substratum and would not be able to re-establish itself if removed. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.

Chemical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Heavy metal contamination
Intermediate High Low Moderate
Adult fucoid algae accumulate heavy metals and are generally fairly robust in the face of chemical pollution (Holt et al., 1997). However, germlings appear to be intolerant of heavy metal pollution. Copper retarded the growth rate of Fucus spiralis sporelings at concentrations greater than 5.8 µg/l and caused permanent damage in sporelings exposed to concentrations of 12.24 µg/l for 10 days (Bond et al., 1999). The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so recovery rates are expected to be high.
Hydrocarbon contamination
High High Moderate Low
Fucoids generally show limited intolerance to oils (Holt et al., 1997). However, Fucus spiralis disappeared from heavily oiled shores some months after the Amoco Cadiz oil spill. The species suffered less than Pelvetia canaliculata but more than fucoids further down the shore, probably due to it's position high on the shore, which means the oil can be present on the algae for a long time before being washed off (Floc'h & Diouris, 1980).
Radionuclide contamination
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Changes in nutrient levels
Intermediate High Low Low
Decreases in nutrient concentration may decrease growth rate in Fucus spiralis. A slight increase in nutrient concentration may enhance growth rates but high concentrations of nutrients would lead to overgrowth of the plants by ephermeral green algae. However, Fucus spiralis is reported to be more common than other fucoids in the sewage polluted inner part of the Oslofjord, Norway (Fletcher, 1996). Recovery rate should be high because cleared areas of the shore are rapidly recruited by this species.
Intermediate Very high Low Moderate
Fucus spiralis can experimentally tolerate salinities of 3 to 34 psu, but it is only found in estuaries down to 10 psu so it may be affected by this factor.
No information
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Reduced oxygenation is unlikely to have an effect on the algae as it produces its own oxygen by photosynthesis. However, no studies have been found to confirm this.

Biological pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Intermediate High Low Moderate
Fucus spiralis rapidly recruits to cleared areas (Holt et al., 1997) so would recover reasonably quickly from extraction of 50 percent of the area.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information

Additional information

Importance review

Policy/legislation

- no data -

Status

Non-native

Importance information

Fucus spiralis does not support encrusting or sessile epifauna although the amphipod Hyale and the littorinids Littorina obtusata and Littorina saxatilis occur amongst fronds which provide shelter from desiccation. A range of epiphytes may also grow on the fronds.

Bibliography

  1. Anderson, C.I.H. & Scott, G.W., 1998. The occurrence of distinct morphotypes within a population of Fucus spiralis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 78, 1003-1006.

  2. Bond, P.T., Brown, M.T., Moate, R.M., Gledhill, M., Hill, S.J. & Nimmo, M., 1999. Arrested development in Fucus spiralis (Phaeophyceae) germlings exposed to copper. European Journal of Phycology, 34, 513-521.

  3. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  4. Fletcher, R.L., 1996. The occurrence of 'green tides' - a review. In Marine Benthic Vegetation. Recent changes and the Effects of Eutrophication (ed. W. Schramm & P.H. Nienhuis). Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag. [Ecological Studies, vol. 123].

  5. Floc'h, J. H. & Diouris, M., 1980. Initial effects of Amoco Cadiz oil on intertidal algae. Ambio, 9, 284-286.

  6. Hardy, F.G. & Guiry, M.D., 2003. A check-list and atlas of the seaweeds of Britain and Ireland. London: British Phycological Society

  7. Hawkins, S.J. & Hartnoll, R.G., 1985. Factors determining the upper limits of intertidal canopy-forming algae. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 20, 265-271.

  8. Hazlett, A. & Seed, R., 1976. A study of Fucus spiralis and its associated fauna in Strangford Lough, Co. Down. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 76, 607-618.

  9. Holt, T.J., Hartnoll, R.G. & Hawkins, S.J., 1997. The sensitivity and vulnerability to man-induced change of selected communities: intertidal brown algal shrubs, Zostera beds and Sabellaria spinulosa reefs. English Nature, Peterborough, English Nature Research Report No. 234.

  10. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  11. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line] http://www.jncc.gov.uk/mermaid

  12. Niemeck, R.A. & Mathieson, A.C., 1976. An ecological study of Fucus spiralis. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 24, 33-48.

  13. Norton, T.A. (ed.), 1985. Provisional Atlas of the Marine Algae of Britain and Ireland. Huntingdon: Biological Records Centre, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.

  14. Robertson, B.L., 1985. Reproductive ecology and canopy structure of Fucus spiralis (L.) Botanica Marina, 30, 475-482.

  15. Scott, G.W., Shaw, J.H., Hull, S.L., Pickaert, C. & Burlak, A.M., 1999. Some implications of plant size in monotypic and polytypic populations of Fucus spiralis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 80, 359-360.

  16. Vernet, P. & Harper, J.L., 1980. The costs of sex in seaweeds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 13, 129-138.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

White, N. 2008. Fucus spiralis Spiral wrack. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1337

Last Updated: 29/05/2008