Limnoria quadripunctata (gribble)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Water Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Limnoria quadripunctata Holthuis, 1949
Preferred Common Name
Local Common Names
- Germany: Holzbohrassel; Seepocken
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Limnoria quadripunctata is a wood-boring isopod. Limnoriids generally remain within their burrows in wood, seagrasses or algal hold-fasts, but episodes of probably short-distance migratory behaviour have been observed (Eltringham and Hockley, 1961; Miranda and Thiel, 2008). Dispersal over longer distances is likely to take place by rafting within the substrate (Thiel and Haye, 2006; Miranda and Thiel, 2008). During the period of large scale trans-ocean transport using wooden ships, limnoriids may have been dispersed in the hulls of these ships. The present distribution of L. quadripunctata in temperate waters of South and North America, Europe, southern Africa and Australasia, but not in tropical waters, is suggestive of invasion from the northern to the southern hemisphere or vice-versa. The status of the species in western North America is not clear, though it is recorded in documentation of non-native species of California (Boyd et al., 2002). In South Africa, it is considered to satisfy the criteria for a cryptogenic species (Robinson et al., 2005). This species infests wooden structures in the intertidal zone (Barnacle, 1987) and as such is at least locally invasive.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Crustacea
- Class: Malacostraca
- Subclass: Eumalacostraca
- Order: Isopoda
- Family: Limnoriidae
- Genus: Limnoria
- Species: Limnoria quadripunctata
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The family Limnoriidae consists of small isopods which tunnel into wood, seagrasses or macroalgae. It contains the genera Limnoria, Paralimnoria and Lynseia(Cookson and Poore, 1994). Cookson (1991) reported 51 species within the family and since the publication of his monograph, two new species have been added: an algal borer (Cookson, 1997) and a seagrass borer (Cookson and Lorenti, 2001). Limnoria quadripunctata was described by Holthuis from specimens collected in the Netherlands (Holthuis, 1949). A rather similar species, Limnoria carinata, has subsequently been described from the Mediterranean (Menzies and Becker, 1957). However, it is not clear whether the features used to distinguish the species are consistently distinct and so further anatomical investigations are required which may prove L. carinata to be synonymous with L. quadripunctata (Kühne, 1971; Cookson, 1991), in which case the specific epithet quadripunctata has priority.
DescriptionTop of page
Animals are up to 4 mm in length (Antezana, 1968), though more typically 3 mm or less (Cookson, 1991; Borges et al., 2009). The anatomy of Limnoria quadripunctata (see Pictures) follows the typical isopod pattern, with three main body regions: the cephalon, peraeon and pleon. The peraeon bears seven pairs of walking limbs (peraeopods) and the pleon bears five pairs of flattened swimming/respiratory appendages (pleopods) while the pleotelson carries a pair of uropods.
The uropods have a much shorter exopod than endopod, and only the endopod has a claw. These features distinguish the genus Limnoria from Paralimnoria (Cookson, 1991).
The upper surface of the pleotelson has an anteromedial, square array of four punctae, which is characteristic of the species. The punctae are visible when the telson is viewed with a focused light beam directed from the side, but scanning electron microscopy of carefully cleaned specimens is recommended for accurate identification (see Pictures).
DistributionTop of page
The species has been reported initially from driftwood on the coast of the Netherlands (Holthuis, 1949) but, in view of the nature of the substrate, the origin of the population studied by Holthuis is not clear. Holthuis pointed out that previous reports of the distribution of wood-boring limnoriids tended to assume that the organisms found were L. lignorum, but that illustrations given of specimens from San Francisco Bay indicate the presence of L. quadripunctata there (Kofoid and Miller, 1927). L. quadripunctata has subsequently been reported from other sites on the coasts of northwestern Europe: Lough Hyne, southwestern Ireland (de Grave and Holmes, 1998); southern UK (Jones, 1963; Oevering et al., 2001), western France (Jones et al., 1972) and Portugal (Borges et al., 2008). It has also been reported from Trieste at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea by authors who report the very similar L. carinata from the west coast of Italy (Menzies and Becker, 1957). The species has also been recorded on the west coast of the USA, from Humboldt Bay to San Diego (Menzies, 1957; Carlton, 1975; Espinosa-Perez and Hendrickx, 2006), but is apparently absent on the east coast. It occurs in Chile (Antezana, 1968), New Zealand (McQuire, 1964), southern Australia (Cookson, 1991), the southern Indian Ocean Islands of Amsterdam and St Paul (Kensley, 1976) and between Table Bay and Port Elizabeth in South Africa (Stebbing, 1910; Robinson et al., 2005).
The species has also been recorded on the west coast of the USA, from Humboldt Bay to San Diego (Menzies, 1957; Carlton, 1975; Espinosa-Perez and Hendrickx, 2006), but is apparently absent on the east coast. It occurs in Chile (Antezana, 1968), New Zealand (McQuire, 1964), southern Australia (Cookson, 1991), the southern Indian Ocean Islands of Amsterdam and St Paul (Kensley, 1976) and between Table Bay and Port Elizabeth in South Africa (Stebbing, 1910; Robinson et al., 2005).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Stebbing, 1910; Robinson et al., 2005||Between Table Bay and Port Elizabeth|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Kofoid and Miller, 1927; Carlton, 1975|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Antezana, 1968||Insufficient information to determine status, though more recent studies do not mention this species|
|France||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Jones et al., 1972|
|Ireland||Localised||Not invasive||Grave and Holmes, 1998||Limited information on distribution in Ireland|
|Italy||Localised||Not invasive||Menzies and Becker, 1957||Taxonomic status of Mediterranean L. quadripunctata and L. carinata unclear|
|Netherlands||Present||Native||Not invasive||Holthuis, 1949|
|Portugal||Present||Native||Not invasive||Borges et al., 2008|
|UK||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Oevering et al., 2001; Borges et al., 2008|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Barnacle, 1987|
|-South Australia||Present||Introduced||Cookson, 1991|
|-Western Australia||Present||Introduced||Cookson, 1991|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||McQuire, 1964|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The introduction of L. quadripunctata to the coast of California may have resulted from the abandoning of infested wooden sailing ships originating from Atlantic ports during the gold rush that started in 1849 (Carlton, 1975). The introduction to South Africa could have taken place earlier, though the vector of spread is likely to have been the same (Griffiths et al., 2009); wooden sailing ships from Europe would have been provisioning along the coast where L. quadripunctata is found since the early Portuguese, Dutch and British voyages of exploration and trade. Australia and New Zealand are also likely to have been initially colonized by populations established in wooden sailing vessels.
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||Yes||Cookson (1991); Griffiths et al. (2009)||Wooden boats suspected to be introduced from UK|
|California||1850s||Yes||Carlton (1975)||Gold rush shipping|
|South Africa||Yes||Wooden boats|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Further spread would probably be reliant on populations in driftwood rather than wooden boats. This species may replace Limnoria lignorum if there is significant warming of coastal waters either due to climate change or to local factors such as release of power station cooling waters.
HabitatTop of page
Wood-boring limnoriids in temperate waters are principally found in wooden structures. Their natural habitat in such waters would probably have been fallen trees and branches brought down to the sea by rivers, but the extensive modification of temperate flood plain ecosystems has markedly reduced the quantities of this sort of substrate entering the sea. Thus the current distribution of L. quadripunctata is constrained by the availability of timber structures.
The world-wide distribution of L. quadripunctata indicates that it is limited to temperate waters. In the UK, for instance, it is restricted to the southern half of the country (Jones, 1963; Oevering et al., 2001). More locally, salinity also limits colonization; the distribution of L. quadripuncata indicates only limited tolerance of brackish waters. Tunnelling by Limnoria quadripunctata is focused in the intertidal zone (Jones, 1963; Eltringham, 1971), though specimens have been collected from as deep as 30 m (Cookson, 1991).
More locally, salinity also limits colonization; the distribution of L. quadripuncata indicates only limited tolerance of brackish waters. Tunnelling by Limnoria quadripunctata is focused in the intertidal zone (Jones, 1963; Eltringham, 1971), though specimens have been collected from as deep as 30 m (Cookson, 1991).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Intertidal zone||Principal habitat||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
L. quadripunctata is found at full salinity sites and appears to be restricted to marine rather than brackish waters. Lowered salinity is known to affect various aspects of the life history of L. quadripunctata(Eltringham, 1961, 1964).
Water TolerancesTop of page
|Parameter||Minimum Value||Maximum Value||Typical Value||Status||Life Stage||Notes|
|Depth (m b.s.l.)||Optimum||Low intertidal, has been found as deep as 30 m, but normally restricted to the intertidal zone|
|Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)||Optimum||Position in the intertidal zone means oxygen levels normally high. Lowest tolerated level about 0.6-1.0 mg/l; feeding markedly reduced below 3 mg/l.|
|Salinity (part per thousand)||Optimum||Not tolerant of estuarine conditions|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||Optimum||Temperate to warm temperate|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Surface currents are vital in dispersing organisms that colonize fallen wood (Thiel and Haye, 2006; Cragg et al., 2009). Thus the expansion of L. quadripunctata away from established populations will be constrained by local current regimes. Establishment of a population after natural dispersal requires a supply of wood either from fallen trees or human input.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Limited dispersal by the animals themselves does occur (Eltringham and Hockley, 1961), but wider dispersal is likely to occur in floating logs, as is suggested to be the case in the Gulf of Aqaba for L. tripunctata (Cragg et al., 2009).
The current distribution of the species is highly suggestive of accidental introduction in the hulls of ocean-going wooden boats. This phase of dispersal has come to an end, but populations remain because of the continued availability of wood in the intertidal zone in the form of piers, wharves and piling.
Intentional introduction of this species is not likely as there is no currently recognized economic benefit to be derived from its introduction. There are no documented cases of intentional introduction.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
Limnoriids are a major threat to wooden structures in the intertidal zone. Problems of attack by limnoriids on wood in Dutch dykes were sufficient to require a royal commission of investigation (Hoek, 1893). These problems were ascribed to the activities of L. lignorum, but at that time, the existence of L. quadripunctata and its occurrence on Dutch coasts had not been recognized. Over £400,000 was required to repair a Grade II-listed (heritage protection listing) wooden pier at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, UK, in 2007. This structure had been severely damaged by the activity of L. quadripunctata.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
In natural environments, marine wood borers play an important role in processing woody debris and releasing energy stored in fallen wood from forests but also in driftwood.
Impact on Biodiversity
The tunnelling of limnoriids creates niches for other small invertebrates (Becker, 1971) and favourable conditions for associates such as the wood-consuming amphipod Cheluraterebrans which often occurs in the outer layers of wood where Limnoria is established (Kühne and Becker, 1964). The reported distributions of L.quadripunctata and Cheluraterebrans in South Africa coincide almost exactly (Robinson et al., 2005). These species also occur together in Los Angeles and San Francisco (Barnard, 1950). Even the animals themselves provide a niche for certain specialist organisms (Delgery et al., 2006).
Social ImpactTop of page
Colonization by L. quadripunctata imposes a requirement for maintenance of infrastructure such as wharves, piers and bridges. There is also the potential for impacts on aquaculture and capture fisheries where wooden components are exposed in the water. The costs are felt in direct economic terms but also in terms of loss of important capabilities during maintenance or as a result of unexpected failures of components.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
These animals are generally viewed as having a negative economic impact; however, they have an unusual digestive system that may yield insights into how to exploit lignocellulosic biomass.
Effective exploitation of the insights into the digestive process might lead to the development of alternative liquid biofuels.
Limnoriids play a role in the detrital food chain, converting large refractory detritus into small rather more labile particles and thus hastening the release of stored energy and nutrients. They also create temporary niches for cryptofauna and thus enhance biodiversity.
Uses ListTop of page
- Research model
- Gene source
- Test organisms (for pests and diseases)
DiagnosisTop of page
The nature of the tunnels would enable them to be distinguished from those caused by other borers such as beetles. Limnoriid colonies form an interconnecting superficial complex of tunnels (approximately 1 mm in diameter) on or just below the surface of the infected wood. Tunnels just below the surface tend to have a series of pinhole-sized punctures along their length that improve circulation of water in the tunnel. Juvenile burrows extend at right angles to the parental burrow. L. quadripuncata can be distinguished from the other species likely to occur at the same site (L. lignorum and L. tripuncatata) by the four punctae on the pleotelson, but for a definitive identification, a number of specimens should be sent with full collection details to a specialist.
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Superficial inspection of tunnelled wood followed by laboratory examination of animals would serve to determine whether limnoriid colonization was taking place and if so, by which species.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Limnoria andamanensis, like L. quadripunctata has an anteromedial array of four punctae on the pleotelson, but differs in the sculpturing on pleonite 5 and other features (Rao and Ganapati, 1969). L. carinata is reported to have similar sculpturing on the upper surface of the pleotelson to L. quadripunctata, though it may have six or more punctae. This species is said to differ from L. quadripunctata in having four rather than five articles on the flagellum of antenna 2 (Menzies and Becker, 1957). Subsequent publications have urged further investigation of the variation in morphological characteristics of L. quadripunctata and especially the possibility of sexual dimorphism, with a view to resolving whether these two species are genuinely distinct (Kühne, 1971; Cookson, 1991).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Ecosystem restoration is not an approach that seems relevant for limnoriid control, as the organisms exploit anthropogenic changes in the marine environment (installation of wooden structures etc.) but do not themselves bring about adverse environmental changes.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
The uncertainty as to whether Limnoria carinata is a synonym of L. quadripunctata needs to be resolved by anatomical studies that take account of possible sexual dimorphism of pleotelson ornamentation as reported by Cookson (1991), and of within- and between-population variations. This area of uncertainty would also benefit from the application of an approach that compares DNA sequences, as has been shown with limnoriids of the Chilean coast (Haye and Marchant, 2007). This approach could also be used to give insights into the extent to which limnoriid populations are isolated. This would give indications of the extent of mobility of the species in the absence of the extensive movements of wooden ocean going ships. Cellulase activity has been demonstrated in limnoriids (Ray and Comita, 1952) and the digestive enzyme systems of limnoriids have been shown to preferentially degrade cellulose and hemicelluloses in lignocellulose (Seifert, 1964). This was later shown to take place without any symbiotic gut-resident micro-organisms (Boyle and Mitchell, 1978). The wood digestion capabilities of Limnoria need to be probed using techniques of modern molecular biology.
Cellulase activity has been demonstrated in limnoriids (Ray and Comita, 1952) and the digestive enzyme systems of limnoriids have been shown to preferentially degrade cellulose and hemicelluloses in lignocellulose (Seifert, 1964). This was later shown to take place without any symbiotic gut-resident micro-organisms (Boyle and Mitchell, 1978). The wood digestion capabilities of Limnoria need to be probed using techniques of modern molecular biology.
ReferencesTop of page
Antezana T, 1968. [English title not available]. (Limnoria (Limnoria) quadripunctata Holthuis (Crustacea,Isopoda), nuevo exponente de la fauna del Pacifico Sur-Oriental.) Revista de Biologia Marina, 13:293-301.
Becker G, 1971. The biology, physiology and ecology of marine wood-boring crustaceans. In: Marine borers, fungi and fouling organisms of wood [ed. by Jones, E. B. G. \Eltringham, S. K.]. Paris, France: OECD.
Borges LMS; Cragg SM; Bergot J; Williams JR; Shayler B; Sawyer GS, 2008. Laboratory screening of tropical hardwoods for natural resistance to the marine borer Limnoria quadripunctata: the role of leachable and non-leachable factors. Holzforschung, 62(1):99-111. http://www.atypon-link.com/WDG/doi/abs/10.1515/HF.2008.015
Borges LMS; Cragg SM; Busch S, 2009. A laboratory assay for measuring feeding and mortality of the marine wood borer Limnoria under forced feeding conditions: a basis for a standard test method. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, 63(3):289-296. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VG6-4VH8Y1R-1&_user=6686535&_coverDate=04%2F30%2F2009&_rdoc=8&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info(%23toc%236030%232009%23999369996%23931093%23FLA%23display%23Volume)&_cdi=6030&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=19&_acct=C000066028&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=6686535&md5=43c28304035fa0544286a863012f2e28
Borges LMS; Nunes L; Valente AA; Palma P, 2008. Wood boring speceis present in the Tagus Estuary and the severity of their attack on woodne piles exposed in the area: a case study, International Research Group on Wood Protection.
Carlton JT, 1975. Introduced intertidal invertebrates. In: Light's manual: intertidal invertebrates of the central California coast [ed. by Smith, R. I. \Carlton, J. T.]. California, USA: University of California Press, 17-25.
Cragg SM; Jumel MC; Al-Horani FA; Hendy IW, 2009. The life history characteristics of the wood-boring bivalve Teredo bartschi are suited to the elevated salinity, oligotrophic circulation in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 375(1-2):99-105.
Delgery CC; Cragg SM; Busch S; Morgan EA, 2006. Effects of the epibiotic heterotrich ciliate Mirofolliculina limnoriae and of moulting on faecal pellet production by the wood-boring isopods, Limnoria tripunctata and Limnoria quadripunctata. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 334(2):165-173. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00220981
Dreyer H; Waegele JW, 2002. The Scutocoxifera tax. nov. and the information content of nuclear SSU rRNA sequences for reconstruction of isopod phylogeny. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 22(2):217-234.
Espinosa-Perez MD; Hendrickx ME, 2006. A comparative analysis of biodiversity and distribution of shallow-water marine isopods (Crustacea : Isopoda) from polar and temperate waters in the East Pacific. Belgian Journal of Zoology, 136(2):219-247.
Hoek PPC, 1893. Rapport der Commissie uit de Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, benoemd in de vergadering der Afdeling Natuurkunde op zaterdag 28 november 1885, ten einde der Akademie te adviseren, naar aanleiding van de missive van den Minister van Waterstaat, Handel en Nijverheid, dato 27 november 1885 (zie bijlage 1), betreffende de levenswijze en de werking van Limnoria lignorum. Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam, 2de reeks ([English title not available]), 1(6). 1-103.
Holthuis LB, 1949. The Isopoda and Tanaidacea of the Netherlands, including the description of a new species of Limnoria. Zoolofische mededelingen Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie te Leiden, 30:163-190.
Jones EBG; Kuhne H; Trussell PC; Turner RD, 1972. Results of an international cooperative research programme on the biodeterioration of timber submerged in the sea. Material und Organismen, 7(2):93-118.
Kofoid CA; Miller RC, 1927. Biological section. Marine borers and their relation to marine construction on the Pacific Coast. Final Report of the Sand Francisco Bay marine piling committee [ed. by Hill, C. L. \Kofoid, C. A.]. 188-343.
Kühne H, 1971. The identification of wood-boring crustaceans (with reference to their morphology, systematics and distribution). In: Marine borers, fungi and fouling organisms of wood [ed. by Jones, E. B. G. \Eltringham, S. K.]. Paris, France: OECD.
Menzies RJ; Becker G, 1957. [English title not available]. (Holzzerstörender Limnoria-Arten (Crustacea, Isopoda) aus dem Mittelmeer mit Neubeschreibung von L. carinata.) Zeitschrift für angewante Zoologie, 44:85-92.
Oevering P; Matthews BJ; Cragg SM; Pitman AJ, 2001. Invertebrate biodeterioration of marine timbers above mean sea level along the coastlines of England and Wales. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, 47(3):175-181.
Rutherford D; Reay RC; Ford MG, 1979. The development of a screening method to estimate contact toxicity of pyrethroids against wood-boring marine crustacea, Limnoria spp. Pesticide Science, 10(6):527-530.
Thiel M; Haye PA, 2006. The ecology of rafting in the marine environment. III. Biogeographical and evolutionary consequences. Oceanography and Marine Biology. Oceanography and Marine Biology. An Annual Review, 44:323-429.
Tupper C; Pitman AJ; Cragg SM, 2000. Copper accumulation in the digestive caecae of Limnoria quadripunctata holthius (Isopoda: Crustacea) tunnelling CCA-treated wood in laboratory cultures. Holzforschung, 54(6):570-576.
OrganizationsTop of page
Sweden: International Research Group on Wood Protection, IRG Secretariat, Box 5609, SE-114 86, Stockholm, http://www.irg-wp.com/
ContributorsTop of page
13/01/10 Original text by:
Simon Cragg, Institute of Marine Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth, Ferry Road, Portsmouth PO4 9LY, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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