Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of California, Los Angeles
621 Charles E. Young Drive South
P.O. Box 951606
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606
gferrier [at] ucla [dot] edu
|2005||University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI: B.S. Marine Resources and Development|
|2002||California State University, Northridge, CA: M.S. Biology and Biomechanics of Wave-Swept Organisms.|
The rocky intertidal habitat has served as a model ecosystem for ecologists since the 1960's. From this system, seminal ecological tenets have arisen that explain the distributional patterns of organisms in terms of biological and physical disturbances. To date, however, the underlying mechanisms which drive the biological and physical processes throughout the intertidal have not been examined, and so the zonation patterns present in the rocky intertidal are not fully resolved. Identifying the underlying mechanisms utilized by community-influencing predators is paramount in upholding or refuting hypotheses which have influenced ecology for > 50 years. My research is directed at identifying the mechanisms which drive predation in intertidal habitats.
Currently, I am studying the interactions between an intertidal gastropod predator (Acanthinucella spirata) and its invertebrate prey. Snails exhibit a strong preference for a specific prey type (mussels, barnacles, or other snails) at different beaches and rarely "switch" to an alternate prey source. My current work is aimed at exploring the relationship between prey abundances and predator preference.
Secondly it is known that many invertebrate predators rely on chemical cues to guide their foraging behavior. The cues these predators use are often obligatory chemicals released by their prey. Barnacles possess an insoluble protein that is expressed most heavily in cirri which stimulates settlement by cyprid larvae. This protein (SIPC) is a highly conserved protein among the barnacles and is a powerful larval attractant. Preliminary results using SIPC extracted from adult barnacles suggest that Acanthinucella spirata utilizes this obligatory protein to locate living barnacles within a bed. The attraction to SIPC has also been observed in A. spirata known to prefer different types of prey. Future studies will likely be directed at the development of the snails and whether their preferences are the result of nurse egg content (i.e. digestive conditioning) or innate preference.