|Researched by||Ken Neal & Penny Avant||Refereed by||This information is not refereed|
|Other common names||Mud dwelling amphipod||Synonyms||-|
Corophium volutator has a long slender body that is whitish with brown markings and grows up to 11 mm in length. It has a clearly segmented, dorso-ventrally flattened body. The head is small with two pairs of forward pointing antennae; the second pair are a distinguishing feature of Corophium volutator and are particularly long and thick. There are seven pairs of segmented legs with the top segment of each being typically small and separate from that of the next segment.
The morphology of the male and female antennae differs significantly and for identification refer to the appropriate key, e.g. Lincoln (1979).
- none -
|Typical abundance||High density|
|Male size range||1.0 - 11.0mm|
|Male size at maturity||4.6mm|
|Female size range||4.6mm|
|Female size at maturity|
|Growth rate||8 - 11mm/year|
|Body flexibility||High (greater than 45 degrees)|
|Characteristic feeding method||Active suspension feeder, See additional information, Surface deposit feeder|
|Diet/food source||See additional information|
|Typically feeds on||Particulate organic matter, epipelic (=living on fine sediment) and epipsammic (= living on sand) bacteria and diatoms.|
|Dependency||No information found.|
|Is the species harmful?||No|
Corophium volutator is one of the most abundant organisms in estuarine mudflats reaching densities of 100,000 m² in the Stour Estuary, Suffolk (Hughes, 1988). Densities vary with geographical region and season. In Gullmarsfjorden, Wadden Sea winter densities are 100 m² and rise to 1400 m² in the summer (Flach & de Bruin, 1993). In the Crouch Estuary in southeast England, Corophium volutator number 6,000 m² in winter and rise to 50,000 m² in the summer (Gerdol & Hughes, 1993).
Variations in density are the result of predation and subsequent recovery of Corophium volutator. Corophium volutator is an important food source for dunlin (Calidris alpina) (Jensen & Kristensen, 1990), redshank (Tringa totanus) (Hughes, 1988; Raffaelli et al., 1991), shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) and flounder (Platichthys flesus) and these predators can consume 55% of annual Corophium volutator production (Raffaelli et al., 1991). Corophium volutator is also fed upon by the brown shrimp (Crangon crangon) and the green shore crab (Carcinus maenas) which can consume 57% and 19% of Corophium volutator production respectively (Flach & de Bruin, 1994). In the summer months, as the tide recedes, male Corophium volutator crawl on the surface of the mud, searching for females (Fish & Mills, 1979; Hughes, 1988; Forbes et al., 1996), making them more vulnerable to predation. In North American estuaries, the semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) can consume 50 males per minute as they follow the ebbing tide (Brown et al., 1999).
There is no dispersive larval phase in the life history of Corophium volutator, instead, the embryos develop in a ventral thoracic brood pouch and emerge as miniature replicas of their parents and build a burrow off that of the parent (Hughes, 1988). Reproduction ceases below 7°C (McLusky, 1968) so, in the winter, predation significantly decreases the density of Corophium volutator.
Corophium volutator has the habit of swimming when immersed, which makes them available as prey for the common goby (Pomatoschistus microps) (Flach & de Bruin, 1994), herring (Clupea harengus), sprat (Sprattus sprattus) and smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) (Essink et al., 1989). The swimming behaviour of Corophium volutator has been reported by several authors. In the Ems Estuary, Wadden Sea, it was estimated that 0.06% of the population (3 x 108 individuals) swim on the flood of each tide, leading to a net landward movement of the population (Essink et al. 1989). In the Stour Estuary, southeast England, Corophium volutator was found to swim only at night, on or around spring tides and only between May and August. It was estimated that on any one tide 6-19% of the population swam and that it was mainly immature animals that swam (Hughes, 1988). Holmström & Morgan (1983a) also found this species swimming at spring tide, mainly on the ebb just after high tide. Corophium volutator is a poor swimmer and is vulnerable to predation whilst in the water column, so there must be a benefit to swimming that outweighs the risk of predation. Hughes (1988) proposed several theories as to why Corophium volutator would elect to swim:
Corophium volutator ingests particles 4 -63 µm in diameter. Food consists of bacteria, diatoms and particulate organic matter (POM) (Gerdol & Hughes, 1994a; Hughes, 1988; Jensen & Kristensen, 1990). There has been some disagreement in the literature about which of these is the most important in the diet. Diatoms are crushed individually to avoid ingestion of siliceous frustules, thus it is difficult to estimate rate of diatom consumption by Corophium volutator (Gerdol & Hughes, 1994a). Feeding occurs at all stages of the tide, suspension feeding at high tide and deposit feeding at low tide. Three modes of feeding have been recorded in Corophium volutator.
|Physiographic preferences||Open coast, Estuary|
|Biological zone preferences||Lower eulittoral, Mid eulittoral, Sublittoral fringe, Upper eulittoral|
|Substratum / habitat preferences||Mud, Muddy sand, Sandy mud|
|Tidal strength preferences||Very Weak (negligible), Weak < 1 knot (<0.5 m/sec.)|
|Wave exposure preferences||Extremely sheltered, Sheltered, Very sheltered|
|Salinity preferences||Full (30-40 psu), Low (<18 psu), Reduced (18-30 psu), Variable (18-40 psu)|
|Other preferences||No text entered|
|Migration Pattern||Non-migratory / resident|
|Reproductive type||Gonochoristic (dioecious)|
|Reproductive frequency||See additional information|
|Fecundity (number of eggs)||11-100|
|Generation time||<1 year|
|Age at maturity||See additional information|
|Season||See additional information|
|Life span||<1 year|
|Larval/juvenile development||Direct development|
|Duration of larval stage||Not relevant|
|Larval dispersal potential||<10 m|
|Larval settlement period||Not relevant|
The MarLIN sensitivity assessment approach used below has been superseded by the MarESA (Marine Evidence-based Sensitivity Assessment) approach (see menu). The MarLIN approach was used for assessments from 1999-2010. The MarESA approach reflects the recent conservation imperatives and terminology and is used for sensitivity assessments from 2014 onwards.
|Corophium volutator has a very specific preference for muddy sand or mud as a suitable substratum. If all of the mud and muddy sand was removed from a beach or estuary it is quite likely that all of the Corophium volutator would be killed and fail to recolonize. Corophium volutator has no larval dispersal phase and relies on tidal currents to move swimming adults and juveniles a few metres at a time (Essink et al., 1989; Hughes, 1988; Holmström & Morgan, 1983b). Therefore, if Corophium volutator was made completely extinct from an area that was isolated by anything more than a few tens of metres from other Corophium volutator habitat, it is unlikely that the extirpated area would be recolonized. On the other hand, Corophium volutator regularly moves in and out of areas within estuaries as they become suitable/unsuitable due to various biotic and/or abiotic factors (McLusky, 1968; Raffaelli et al. 1991). If, then, part of an estuary was cleared of Corophium volutator, it would be quickly recolonized once the clearing factor had ceased. An intolerance of high has been recorded because of the reliance of Corophium volutator on its substratum for feeding and shelter. It is a highly productive species, however, and a defaunated area is likely to be gradually recolonized by immigration from adjacent populations and a recoverability of high has been recorded.|
|High rates of sedimentation can have a drastic effect on Corophium volutator numbers. Any obstruction to flow in an estuary causes high rates of sedimentation in the lee of the obstruction. Experimental fences placed on mudflats caused sedimentation rates of 2-2.5 cm/month and reduced Corophium volutator densities from approximately 1700 m² to approximately 400 m². In areas without fences, Corophium volutator numbers increased from approximately 1700 per m² to 3500 per m² (Turk & Risk, 1981). Therefore, any sort of structure that is constructed out onto intertidal mud is likely to alter hydrodynamic conditions and increase sediment accretion. This will lead to a drop in Corophium volutator numbers. In the Ythan Estuary, where eutrophication has led to the formation of beds of the gutweed,Ulva intestinalis, Corophium volutator was almost completely eliminated from beneath it. In the winter when the gutweed died, however, high densities of Corophium volutator quickly reappeared where the gutweed used to be (Raffaelli et al., 1991). Smothering causes significant mortality to Corophium volutator so an intolerance of high has been recorded but it has also been shown that recoverability of affected populations is high.|
|Corophium volutator lives in areas with very high sediment loads and it might be postulated that an increase would not affect them but the evidence for the effect of smothering (see above) suggests there may be a reduction in number and an intolerance of intermediate has been recorded.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|A decrease in suspended sediment may decrease the efficiency of suspension feeding in Corophium volutator but since they can deposit feed, this is unlikely to affect their nutrition as a whole and tolerant has been recorded.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|Despite the large amount of interest in the biology of Corophium volutator, no information was found detailing its resistance to desiccation. However, it occupies estuarine mud that has a high interstitial water content that rarely dries out . Therefore it probably avoids the effects of desiccation in its burrow. Males crawl on the mud surface shortly after emersion (Fish & Mills, 1979; Hughes, 1988; Forbes et al., 1996) but this behaviour only lasts a short time and probably does not make them vulnerable to desiccation. Tolerant has been recorded because of the burrowing habit of Corophium volutator.|
|An increase in emergence caused by a decrease in tidal amplitude would dry out mud at the top of the shore and exclude Corophium volutator. As a consequence the amount of suitable habitat for Corophium volutator would probably decrease (squeezed between the dry upper shore and tidal/river channels at the bottom of the shore) and lead to a population decline. Increased emergence is unlikely to kill Corophium volutator in the mid shore but may cause some mortality at the population fringes. Intermediate intolerance has been recorded to account for the worst case scenario, and potential loss of population extent.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|Corophium volutator is an intertidal animal and a decrease in emergence would cause part of the population to become subtidal. The affected part of the population is likely to swim to suitable intertidal habitat. The activity of Corophium volutator is entrained by inundation by the tides and therefore has a natural periodicity of 12.4 hours. This can be re-entrained artificially to unnatural tidal cycles in the laboratory (Harris & Morgan, 1984a,b). The part of the population that remained intertidal after a decrease in emergence is likely to re-entrain to the new tidal cycle rapidly and the part made subtidal is likely to swim to the intertidal and therefore tolerant has been recorded.|
|Small Corophium volutator cannot resettle after swimming at current speeds as low as 1cm/s (Ford & Paterson, 2001), which probably explains why they mainly swim at high tide (Hughes, 1988). An increase in water flow rate could cause swimming Corophium volutator to be swept away from suitable habitat and cause high mortality. Corophium volutator inhabits muddy sand and mud habitats that are found in areas of low water movement. An increase in water flow rate at the benchmark level would probably shear away the mud surface and make Corophium volutator locally extinct. An intolerance of high has been recorded.|
|Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant||Low|
|Since Corophium volutator is often found in areas of slow water movement, it is very unlikely that the flow rate will decrease any further. Therefore not relevant has been recorded.|
|Low||Very high||Very Low||High|
|Corophium volutator is subject to temperatures of 1°C in the winter to 17°C in the summer (Wilson & Parker, 1996) but can tolerate much higher temperatures (Meadows & Ruagh, 1981). Therefore a long term, chronic change of 2°C is unlikely to affect this species and tolerant has been recorded.|
|Low||Very high||Very Low||High|
|Corophium volutator is subject to temperatures of 1°C in the winter to 17°C in the summer (Wilson & Parker, 1996). Therefore a chronic drop in temperature is unlikely to kill any members of the population but it may reduce activity and delay reproduction if the temperature drops below 7°C. Sudden pulses of very cold water can disrupt the circa-tidal rhythms of Corophium volutator by resetting the onset of swimming behaviour. For example, a 6 hour cold spell would lead to the population trying to swim at low tide and leave them vulnerable to increased predation. However, it took temperatures of 15-20°C below ambient temperature to induce this response (Holmström & Morgan, 1983b). Therefore at the benchmark level, a decrease in temperature is unlikely to cause increased mortality and an intolerance of low has been recorded.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|Corophium volutator lives in areas of extreme turbidity so it is unlikely that the increased turbidity will have an effect and tolerant has been recorded.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Low|
|A decrease in turbidity my increase the vulnerability of Corophium volutator to predation by fish. It may also increase epipelic diatom production due to increased irradiance, which would be of benefit to Corophium volutator.|
|Increased wave action may disturb the mud in which Corophium volutator lives and make it impossible for them to maintain burrows and may affect their ability to settle after swimming. An intolerance of intermediate has been recorded to represent this potential loss of habitat.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive|
|Corophium volutator lives estuaries which tend to be sheltered because of their enclosed nature. Therefore, it is unlikely that a reduction in wave exposure would occur. If such a decrease did occur, however, it is unlikely that it would affect Corophium volutator and tolerant has been recorded.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Very low|
|Corophium volutator is probably sensitive to surface vibrations but little is know about the effects of noise on invertebrates. However, it is unlikely to be affected at the benchmark level and tolerant has been recorded.|
|Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant|
|Corophium volutator has limited visual acuity and since it spends most of its life in a burrow it is unlikely to be affected by presence at the benchmark level.|
|In the Columbia river, no significant difference was found in Corophium volutator densities before and after dredging a channel and no difference between the dredged site and a control site (McCabe et al., 1998). Presumably, the dredging did cause mortality of Corophium volutator but recolonization was so rapid that no difference was found. In contrast, bait worm digging in Corophium volutator patches was found to reduce overall numbers by 39% due to low recruitment and mortality. Juveniles were especially affected and were reduced by 55% (Shepherd & Boates, 1999). |
The edible cockle (Cerastoderma edule) and the lugworm (Arenicola marina) have a significant negative effect on Corophium volutator density, causing a ~50% drop in numbers at densities of 11-18 lugworms/m² and 250-500 cockles/m². The sediment turnover caused by the cockles and lugworms disturbed the burrows of Corophium volutator and caused an increased rate of swimming making the amphipod more vulnerable to predation by the brown shrimp (Crangon crangon), the green shore crab (Carcinus maenas) and the common goby (Pomatoschistus microps) (Flach & de Bruin, 1993, 1994). Based upon this information, any abrasion or physical disturbance is likely to reduce the density of Corophium volutator by emigration and increased mortality and an intolerance of intermediate has been recorded. However, once a disturbance has ceased, repopulation by immigration is rapid (Raffaelli et al., 1991).
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Moderate|
|Corophium volutator regularly swims on spring high tides and these events can involve 1-19% of the population in a single tide (Essink et al., 1989; Homström & Morgan, 1983; Hughes, 1988). These swimming events may be in response to unfavourable abiotic or biotic conditions and the distribution of Corophium volutator within an estuary can change seasonally (McLusky, 1968). Corophium volutator is preadapted for displacement and 'tolerant' has been recorded.|
|Corophium volutator is paralysed by pyrethrum based insecticide sprayed onto the surface of the mud (Gerdol & Hughes, 1993) and pyrethrum would probably cause significant mortalities if it found its way into estuaries from agricultural runoff. |
Nonylphenol is an anthropogenic pollutant that regularly occurs in water bodies, it is an oestrogen mimic that is produced during the sewage treatment of non-ionic surfactants and can affect Corophium volutator (Brown et al., 1999). Nonylphenol is a hydrophobic molecule and often becomes attached to sediment in water bodies. This will make nonylphenol available for ingestion by Corophium volutator in estuaries where much of the riverine water-borne sediment flocculates and precipitates out of suspension to form mudflats. Nonylphenol is not lethal to Corophium volutator but does reduce growth and has the effect of causing the secondary antennae of males to become enlarged. This causes an encumbrance to the males and makes them more vulnerable than usual to predation by waders when they crawl across the mud surface in search of females (Brown et al., 1999). Corophium volutator is killed by 1% ethanol if exposed for 24 hours or more but can withstand higher concentrations in short pulses. Such short pulses, however, have the effect of rephasing the diel rhythm and will delay the timing of swimming activity for the duration of the ethanol pulse (Harris & Morgan, 1984b). For example, if a population of Corophium volutator is entrained to swim at 12 noon and is subjected to a pulse of ethanol between 9 and 10 am, Corophium volutator will not swim until 1 o' clock. This re-entrainment lasts for several tidal cycles (Harris & Morgan, 1984b) and has implications for the vulnerability of Corophium volutator to predation. In a similar way to ethanol, the antibiotic/insecticide/nematodicide valinomycin, affects the diel rhythm of swimming in Corophium volutator but instead of delaying the onset of swimming behaviour, valinomycin advances it (Harris & Morgan, 1984b). So in the example above, swimming would start at 11 am rather than noon, probably increasing their vulnerability to predation.
An intolerance of high has been recorded because synthetic chemicals studied caused direct mortality or increased mortality due to behavioural modification.
|Corophium volutator is more vulnerable to metals in water than bound to sediment because the ions can cross respiratory surfaces as well as be ingested during feeding. A concentration 38 mg Cu/l was needed to kill 50% of Corophium volutator in 96 hour exposures (Bat et al., 1998). Other metals are far more toxic to Corophium volutator, e.g. zinc is toxic over 1 mg/l and toxicity to metals increases with increasing temperature and salinity (Bryant et al., 1985b). Mortality of 50% is caused by 14 mg/l (Bat et al., 1998). The sublethal effects of zinc included: slowed growth; delayed sexual maturation and reduced fecundity at concentrations from 0.2 to 0.6 mg/l. Exposure to a concentration of 0.8 mg/l zinc prevented sexual maturation. Zinc exposure also reduced the survivorship of juveniles (Conradi & Depledge, 1999). Although exposure to zinc may not be lethal, it may affect the perpetuation of a population by reducing reproductive fitness.|
Mercury was found to be very toxic to Corophium volutator, e.g. concentrations as low as 0.1 mg/l caused 50% mortality in 12 days. Mercury also caused significant mortality of the sediment bacteria on which Corophium volutator feeds but bacterial mortalities were greater than 85% before any significant mortality of Corophium volutator occurred (Meadows & Erdem, 1982). Other metals tested include:
|Light fractions (C10 - C19) of oils are much more toxic to Corophium volutator than heavier fractions (C19 - C40). In exposures of up to 14 days, light fraction concentrations of 0.1 g/kg sediment caused high mortality. It took 9 g/kg sediment to achieve similar mortalities with the heavy fraction (Brils et al., 2002). In the Forth estuary, Corophium volutator was excluded for several hundred metres around the outfalls from hydrocarbon processing plants. However, within 1 year of effluent cessation Corophium volutator had reached densities of approximately 2500 m² (McLusky & Martins, 1998). Therefore, an intolerance of high and a recovery of high have been recorded.|
|Low||Very high||No information||High|
|Corophium volutator readily absorbs radionuclides such as americium and plutonium from water and contaminated sediments (Miramand et al., 1982). However, the effect of contamination of the individuals is not known but an accumulation through the food chain is assumed (Miramand et al., 1982), and this may affect humans consuming contaminated fish. Corophium volutator avoids irradiated sediments with a radiation level of more than 0.8 mrad. This is not because Corophium volutator can detect radiation or because the radiation kills the sediment bacteria. The radiation does cause massive mortalities amongst microorganisms but it is some other chemical change in the sediment that makes Corophium volutator choose un-irradiated sediment when given the choice (Deans et al., 1977). An intolerance of low has been recorded because radiation does not cause high mortality to Corophium volutator but will cause them to swim in order to escape the indirect effects of the radiation.|
|An intolerance of high has been recorded for nutrients to account for the worst case scenario as found in the Ythan Estuary, Scotland. Here, nutrient enrichment causes the mudflats to become covered with algal mats consisting mainly of the gutweed Ulva intestinalis. These mats physically perturb Corophium volutator by preventing burrowing and normal feeding. In areas where the mats did not occur, the density of Corophium volutator was 11 times higher than under the algae. When the algae died-back in the winter, the areas were rapidly recolonized from adjacent patches where the gutweed could not grow and population growth was high from feeding on the rotting algae. In the spring, the gutweed returned and the Corophium volutator are excluded once again (Raffaelli et al., 1991). The burrows of Corophium volutator lower the depth of the redox potential discontinuity allowing oxygen to penetrate into the sediment and can aid the recovery of organically enriched sediments (Limia & Raffaelli, 1997).|
|Corophium volutator is an exceptionally euryhaline species able to tolerate 2-50 psu (McLusky, 1968) but growth is fastest at 15-20 psu (McLusky, 1967; McLusky, 1970 in Meadows & Ruagh, 1981). The interstitial salinity is more important for Corophium volutator than that of the overlying water and there is not ready exchange of water and solutes between the two. Sustained periods of increased salinity are required to alter that of the interstitial water and there is a lag between salinity changes and the response of Corophium volutator (McLusky, 1968). Salinity is thought to entrain Corophium volutator to the tides and sudden increases in salinity delay swimming activity (Harris & Morgan, 1984a). Because of its wide tolerance, an increase in salinity is unlikely to kill Corophium volutator but an acute change may put their behaviour out of synchrony with the tides. Corophium volutator will also emigrate from areas of unfavourable salinity (McLusky, 1968) and an intolerance of tolerant has been recorded.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||High|
|Corophium volutator is an exceptionally euryhaline species able to tolerate 2-50 psu (McLusky, 1968) but growth is fastest at 15-20 psu (McLusky, 1970 in Meadows & Ruagh, 1981). Corophium volutator is a hyperosmotic regulator and the tolerance of its tissues is 13-50 psu but it needs a salinity of above 5 psu in order moult, since osmoregulation is lost during moulting (McLusky, 1967). A salinity of at least 7.5 psu is required for reproduction (McLusky, 1968). The salinity tolerance of Corophium volutator is greater than the benchmark. However, if freshwater input suddenly increased (due to increased rainfall for example) or saline input was reduced (due to a man-made obstruction in the estuary) the distribution of Corophium volutator within that area is likely to change drastically due to emigration from unsuitable areas. Changes in salinity may alter population distribution and dynamics but are very unlikely to cause mortality and tolerant has been recorded.|
|Corophium volutator is highly sensitive to hypoxia and suffers 50% mortality after just 4 hours in hypoxic conditions, or in 2 hours if there is rapid build-up of sulphide (Gamenick et al., 1996). These conditions often occur in estuaries where drifting macroalgae (such as Fucus sp.) settle on the mudflats in small patches therefore an intolerance of high has been recorded.|
|No information||No information||No information||Not relevant|
|No information||No information||No information||Not relevant|
|Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant||Low|
|Corophium volutator is not targeted for extraction.|
|The extraction of cockles by sediment raking and mechanical disturbance and digging for lugworms for bait is likely to cause significant mortality of Corophium volutator. Bait digging was found to reduce Corophium volutator densities by 39%, juveniles were most affected suffering a 55% reduction in dug areas (Shepherd & Boates, 1999). Therefore, an intolerance of intermediate has been recorded and recoverability is also very high.|
- no data -
|National (GB) importance||-||Global red list (IUCN) category||-|
Bat, L., Raffaelli, D. & Marr, I.L., 1998. The accumulation of copper, zinc and cadmium by the amphipod Corophium volutator (Pallas). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 223, 167-184.
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Brils, J.M., Huwer, S.L., Kater, B.J., Schout, P.G., Harmsen, J., Delvigne, G.A.L. & Scholten, M.C.T., 2002. Oil effect in freshly spiked marine sediment on Vibrio fischeri, Corophium volutator, and Echinocardium caudatum. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 21, 2242-2251.
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Bryant, V., Newbery, D.M., McLusky, D.S. & Campbell, R., 1985b. Effect of temperature and salinity on the toxicity of nickel and zinc to two estuarine invertebrates (Corophium volutator, Macoma balthica). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 24, 139-153.
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This review can be cited as:
Last Updated: 10/11/2006