Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Geographical differences in growth rates of Arctica islandica (Mollusca: Bivalvia) from the North Sea and adjacent waters

R.  Witbaard a1, G.C.A.  Duineveld a1 and P.A.W.J.  de Wilde a1
a1 Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands


Geographical differences in the shell growth rate of several populations of the bivalve Arctica islandica (Mollusca: Bivalvia) were estimated by using the growth lines laid down during their first ten years of life. Attention was focused on populations from the North Sea, but for comparison small samples from adjacent waters were also analysed. A four-fold difference in the average growth rate was found between the slowest and fastest growing shells.

Principal component analysis was used to summarize the inter-relationships between environmental variables and growth rates. Shell growth correlated positively with primary production and temperature and inversely with depth and the silt content of the sediment. The North Sea specimens were found to have a strong positive correlation with grain size. Since sediment characteristics also depend on bottom currents, it is suggested that these increased rates reflect lateral seston flux as additional food supply.

In a multiple regression model, applied to all available data, average annual temperature, primary production and the interaction between production and water depth explained 50% of the variance. The derived standard coefficients for temperature, primary production and the interaction between depth and primary production were 0.90, 0.47 and −0.92 respectively. The results of this study suggest that the temperature effects on in situ shell growth are easily overruled by other environmental factors.

If a similar model was calculated with North Sea data only, 75% of the variance was explained by temperature, primary production and depth×primary production. The standard coefficient for primary production was 1.26. The role of temperature in explaining the observed growth differences is negligible since the standard coefficient is −0.098. The interaction term, depth×primary production had a standard coefficient of −0.95.