Commercial oyster harvesters in Florida have long complained that the Florida crown conch Melongena coronais in competition with them for harvestable-sized eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Harvesters also suggest that crown conch, rather than overharvesting, has led to a large decline in oyster populations. To determine the role of M. corona on oysters in Mosquito Lagoon, we must first better understand the biology and ecology of M. corona., and to comprehend crown conch biology in Mosquito Lagoon along the east coast of central Florida, we conducted a three-part experiment in Canaveral National Seashore (northern Mosquito Lagoon). Specifically, we designed a field feeding trial to determine prey oyster size preference. To this end, we executed surveys of oyster reefs to gauge the population density of M. corona in Mosquito Lagoon and tracked conch movements in intervals to determine locomotive capabilities. Our results indicate M. corona: 1) was uncommon in Mosquito Lagoon, with the exception of hotspots, 2) did not selectively forage based on tested oyster shell lengths, and 3) moved a mean of 63.5 meters in 24 hours. Based on our abundance data, we estimate that there are 5137 M. corona across 2802 oyster reefs in Mosquito Lagoon (mean: 0.01 conch/m2, with 0.75 conch/m2 in hotspots). More common were thin stripe hermit crabs (Clibanarius vittatus) occupying shells that once housed M. corona. Therefore, it is not likely that M. corona has played a significant role in oyster population declines in Canaveral National Seashore.
About the Author
Casey Craig attended the University of Central Florida, graduating with a B.S. in Biology in 2015. While an undergraduate, she was a member of the Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Lab (CEElab) and worked as a research assistant for Dr. Linda Walters. Her interests include conservation biology and studying the anthropogenic factors affecting our environment. She plans to make her career in this field after pursuing an M.S degree.
Courtney Buck graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology. She is currently pursuing and M.S. degree in the Environmental Science and Policy program at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include conservation biology and environmental management.
Jordan Filipponi completed her B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of Central Florida in 2015. She is currently a Laboratory Safety Technician in the Environmental Health and Safety department at the UCF. Her interests are environmental conservation and the anthropogenic effects on the environment. Jordan is also passionate about researcher safety in both laboratories and in the field and hopes to expand in this career.
Chelsea Landau graduated from the University of Central Florida in December 2015, majoring in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies. In Spring 2014, she took Dr. Linda Walters Advanced Marin Biology course where she met Casey, Courtney, and Jordan. From there she became a part of the CEElab and worked as an undergraduate research assistant. She also attended a study abroad program with Dr. Walters in Belize studying Tropical Marine Biology.
Craig, Casey; Buck, Courtney; Landau, Chelsea; and Filipponi, Jordan
"The Impact of Crown Conch on Intertidal Oyster Populations in Mosquito Lagoon,"
The Pegasus Review: UCF Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 9:
1, Article 1.