Virginia Institute of Marine Science
We present the first record of Rapana venosa (Veined Rapa Whelk) as an epibiont of Caretta caretta (Loggerhead Sea Turtle) and the first observation of rapa whelks in the South Atlantic Bight, USA. Veined Rapa Whelks are invasive shellfish predators. The only known North American population of Veined Rapa Whelks is in the southern Chesapeake Bay. Collections of Veined Rapa Whelks as epibionts on Loggerhead Sea Turtles from Norfolk, VA and Wassaw Island, GA present a previously undescribed vector for whelk range expansion to widely separated coastal habitats. In October 2008, a live juvenile Loggerhead stranded near Norfolk, VA with a Veined Rapa Whelk attached to its carapace. Since May 2005, a total of eight Loggerheads with Veined Rapa Whelks as epibionts have been observed nesting on Wassaw Island, GA. The shell lengths of the two smallest Wassaw Island whelks ( 1.9 and 2.6 mm) indicate that the whelks settled from the plankton 24-48 hr immediately prior to collection in Georgia. This time frame is not commensurate with turtle migration from Chesapeake Bay to Wassaw Island and indicates a whelk source that is geographically distinct from the Chesapeake Bay. Rapa whelk use of Loggerhead carapaces as settlement and juvenile habitat is of serious concern given the observed potential for coastal and oceanic migrations by turtles to facilitate Veined Rapa Whelk dispersal.
Loggerhead turtle, Predation (Biology), Shellfish, Sea turtles -- Migration
Harding, JM; Walton, WJ; Trapani, CM; Frick, MJ; and Mann, Roger L., Sea Turtles as Potential Dispersal Vectors for Non-indigenous Species: The Veined Rapa Whelk as an Epibiont of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (2011). Southeastern Naturalist, 10(2), 233-244.