This study was conducted to determine the distribution, abundance, and demography of a wood boring isopod, Sphaeroma terebrans Bate, 1866, within the prop roots of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle L., in eight sites within Tampa Bay, Florida. Sphaeroma terebrans in Tampa Bay displayed reproductive activity year-round and bay-wide synchrony in their density pattern. On average approximately 60% (range: 25%-86%) of the intertidal aerial roots surveyed were occupied by S. terebrans. Although infestation levels by S. terebrans in Tampa Bay were similar to that of more tropical regions, the distribution of S. terebrans was not continuous throughout the study sites. A substantially higher occurrence and density of S. terebrans was found in the northern compared to more southern study sites within the Bay. Additionally, some seemingly suitable areas of the bay (i.e., Pinellas Point, Skyway, Fort Desoto) were actually unoccupied on some dates. Although sites differed in the frequency with which roots were attacked, the density of burrows and isopods in an occupied root was similar, with most attacked roots containing 3-5 burrows. The results of a transplantation experiment indicated that neither abiotic factors nor substrate quality limit the burrowing capabilities or survival of adult S. terebrans in the areas where they are absent. Instead, dispersal limitation, linked with differential juvenile survival, most likely controls isopod distribution and abundance within Tampa Bay.
Additional publication details
The distribution and abundance of Sphaeroma terebrans, a wood-boring isopod of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) habitat within Tampa Bay