Metapopulation dynamics of the softshell clam, Mya arenaria
Strasser, Carly A.
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In this dissertation, I explored metapopulation dynamics and population connectivity, with a focus on the softshell clam, Mya arenaria. I first worked towards developing a method for using elemental signatures retained in the larval shell as a tag of natal habitat. I designed and implemented an experiment to determine whether existing methods commonly used for fishes would be applicable to bivalves. I found that the instrumentation and setup I used were not able to isolate and measure the first larval shell of M. arenaria. In concert with developing this method for bivalves, I reared larval M. arenaria in the laboratory under controlled conditions to understand the environmental and biological factors that may influence elemental signatures in shell. My results show that growth rate and age have significant effects on juvenile shell composition, and that temperature and salinity affect larval and juvenile shell composition in variable ways depending on the element evaluated. I also examined the regional patterns of diversity over the current distribution of M. arenaria using the mitochondrial gene, cytochrome oxidase I (COI). I found minimal variability across all populations sampled, suggesting a recent population expansion in the Northwest Atlantic. Finally, I employed theoretical approaches to understand patch dynamics in a two-patch metapopulation when one patch is of high quality and the other low quality. I developed a matrix metapopulation model and compared growth rate elasticity to patch parameters under variable migration scenarios. I then expanded the model to include stochastic disturbance. I found that in many cases, the spatial distribution of individuals within the metapopulation affects whether growth rate is most elastic to parameters in the good or bad patch.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution June 2008
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