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Competitive exclusion in evolutionary time: the case of the acorn barnacles

  • Steven M. Stanley (a1) and William A. Newman (a2)

Barnacles living along rocky shores provide the classic example of competitive dominance in the marine ecosystem: by means of firm attachment and rapid growth, balanoid barnacles commonly undercut and overgrow the genus Chthamalus, which is thereby restricted to the upper fringe of the intertidal zone, where balanoids are physiologically incapable of living. Today, after perhaps less than 50 Myr of evolution, balanoid barnacles are in the midst of rampant adaptive radiation, being represented by about 273 species, of which about half are free-living species of intertidal or shallow subtidal habitats. Chthamaloid barnacles, in contrast, are on the decline, having originated at least 70 Myr ago but today comprising only about 53 living species, approximately 40 of which occupy the uppermost intertidal. The remainder persist as localized, relict, and often disjunct populations. Through competitive exclusion, balanoid barnacles have apparently caused the ecological restriction and decline of the chthamaloids. The balanoids have an advanced feeding mechanism, but the most important adaptive breakthrough leading to their competitive success was probably the origin of a tubiferous wall structure, which affords rapid skeletal growth for the efficient monopolization of free space and for the destruction of chthamaloids.

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  • ISSN: 0094-8373
  • EISSN: 1938-5331
  • URL: /core/journals/paleobiology
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