Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology/Natural History: This abalone can grow to larger size than any other abalone in this area. Abalones are algae grazers; mostly on microalgal films on the rocks though adults also capture pieces of kelp with their foot and consume them. The red color in the shell comes from rufescine; which is similar to the phycoerythrin found in red algae. If the abalone has been feeding primarily on brown algae the shells are aquamarine, green, or white instead of red. A diet alternating between red and brown may give a banded shell. Boring sponges (Cliona celata) often inhabit the older portions of the shell. The small boring clam Penitella conradi may bore into the shell from the outside, causing the abalone to secrete an extra blister of nacre inside to keep the clam from bursting through. The tissue of the foot is often iridescent, and the tentacles are black. This species becomes sexually mature at 6 years, and may live for 20 years. They spawn throughout the year, especially February to April. A large female may have over 12 million ripe oocytes. The veliger larvae are induced to settle by compounds released from coralline algae, jpon which the young abalones graze. This species is commercially the most important, and is commonly served in restaurants. They are also prized by otters, rock crabs Cancer antenarius, octopus, and the seastars Pycnopodia helianthoides and Pisaster ochraceous. They exhibit an galloping, zigzag escape response from predatory seastars, with the upper part of the foot extended over the edge of the shell. Adult abalones occupy a home scar and do not range far. Fossils of abalone are found in Cretaceous strata. They exist in several oceans but grow to largest size in the Pacific. The swimming veliger larvae chew on coralline algae, which releases GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This chemical induces the veligers to settle and metamorphose into juveniles. The abalone scrapes only the surface off the coralline algae, so it actually benefits the algae by removing fouling epiphytes. The animal obtains a red dye (rufescin) from the algae, which it incorporates into its shell for the pink color. The color probably helps camouflage the abalone from predators such as octopus.

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Outside of shell is rough and lumpy or wavy, pinkish or brick red unless overgrown with algae or encrusted with invertebrates. Underside of the shell has a prominent pink border (picture) but otherwise is pearly. The shell is thick and the muscle scar in the center is prominent (picture). Usually has only 3-4 open holes, which are oval and slightly raised. Length to nearly 30 cm.
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Distribution

The red abalone ranges from southern Oregon to Baja California.

Biogeographic Regions: pacific ocean (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) It ranges from Sunset Bay, Oregon to Bahia San Bartolome, Baja, California, including the Farallon and Channel Islands (Cox, 1962). Anecdotal reports in British Columbia were recently confirmed by a single specimen collected in 1998 at the north end of Athabaskan Island, along the central coast (Campbell et al., 2010). Range overlaps with Haliotis kamatschatkana in the southern part of its range and hybridization has been known to occur (Campbell et al., 2010).

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Geographical Range: Central British Columbia to Baja California; uncommon north of Monterey. Abalones are much less common all along the Pacific coast than they were in years past, most likely because of harvesting by humans.

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Physical Description

Morphology

The red abalone is a primitive, snail-like, univalve creature with myopic eyes on the end of retractable stalks, long jet-black tentacles, a large cupped mouth, and a black epipodeum which occasionally has alternating gray stripes.The outside of the large, thick shell is a dull brick red and a faint spiral that can be seen on one end. It is an asymmetrical oval in shape, broad and not very convex. The abalone breathes and discharges wastes through a row of holes on one side of the shell. There are typically 3-5 holes which fill up and are replaced by new holes as the abalone ages. The red abalone is the largest of all the abalone species.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Look Alikes

How to Distinguish from Similar Species: No other local abalone grows as large as this one. Any abalone above about 15 cm is unlikely to be another species. Haliotis kamtschatkana (Japanese abalone) has a thinner shell without a prominent muscle scar. Haliotis cracherodii (black abalone) has a smooth black shell. H. walallensis has spiral ridges on the shell, no muscle scar, and its shell is small (to 12-15 cm), reddish, with pale green, blue, or white mottling. Note: Abalones often hybridize. In southern California this species hybridizes with H. sorensoni, H. corrugata, and H. kamtschatkana; and rarely with H. walallensis.
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Ecology

Habitat

Red abalone are found in intertidal areas attached to rocks from 20-100 feet. The depth changes from one area to another depending on environmental factors. In the southern parts of California, it has been found deeper than fifty or sixty feet. Farther north, closer to southern Oregon, it can be found from the low tide zone out to about fifty feet. It prefers water from forty-five to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical

Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; coastal

Other Habitat Features: intertidal or littoral

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Depth Range: Intertidal to over 180 meters depth; primarily subtidal and most abundant from 20 to 40 m depth (6 to 17 m off CA)

Habitat: Primarily subtidal, + some lower intertidal on inaccessible rocky, wave-swept areas of the open coast. Found especially on the underside of overhanging ledges.

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Trophic Strategy

A strict vegetarian feeding primarily on sessile macro-algae, kelp and plankton. In the southern part of its geographical ranges, they consume mainly giant kelp, and in the northern ranges, bull kelp. Abalones are able to detect food only at close proximities. Once food is detected, the abalone carefully glides slowly along, feeling its way, until it reaches the alga. It then raises its foot and comes down on the plant, trapping it beneath its body. It then consumes the alga, using its small rasplike teeth and extruding tongue, which often measures one-third of the animal's total body length. If interfered with while feeding, the abalone instantly clamps down, pulling its shell over its soft body. In this position it is difficult for most predators to remove the abalone from its substrate.

Plant Foods: algae; macroalgae ; phytoplankton

Primary Diet: herbivore (Algivore); planktivore

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300

Comments: It has only been documented in British Columbia once in 1998 at the north end of Athabaskan Island, along the central coast (Campbell et al., 2010).

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

The sexes are separate. The gonads of the females are green and those of the male, yellowish. Spawning takes place in from the middle of February through the first weeks of April. Males eject sperm and females eject eggs ( over 2 million in one spawning season) through the water. In 10 days, the free-swimming larva, called veligers, settle to the bottom and, within 2 months, develop into small sized adults. By the age of 1 year, an abalone is about 1 inch long, and within 4 years it reaches sexual maturity, at about 5 inches in length.

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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Structure is non-brittle: nacre
 

Nacre of molluscs is tough and non-britte due to its inorganic and organic phases configuration.

     
  "[I]t has been found that  these natural biomaterials [nacres] have very reasonable structures which gives  them many excellent properties, such as good carrying capacity, good  toughness, self-healing, and so on. Furthermore, these biomaterials have  very fine and special structures rather than complicated compositions...[A] typical biomaterial is nacre, the  structure of which is laminated with brick wall structure. It consists  of more than 99 vol.% inorganic phase, aragonite wafers, and less than 1  vol.% organic phase, mortar of proteins. This particular configuration  imparts over one order of magnitude higher bending strength and  toughness than those of aragonite single crystals. The work of fracture  of nacre is 3000 times higher than that of pure aragonite.  So, the complicated and reasonable structure of natural biomaterials  can give us an important insight into making better structure materials  through biomimetic design." (Wang et al. 2000:9)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Wang, C.; Huang, Y.; Zan, Q.; Guo, H.; Cai, S. 2000. Biomimetic structure design—a possible approach to change the brittleness of ceramics in nature. Materials Science & Engineering C. 11(1): 9-12.
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Functional adaptation

Shells are tough: red abalone
 

The shell of the red abalone resists breakage due to a brick and mortar structure.

       
  The shell of the red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, "is an example where nature has used readily available materials (e.g. Ca2+ and CO3-2 ions) in seawater in order to generate a multifunctional composite material. The shell is a ceramic/biopolymer hybrid composite structure with two microarchitecturally different sections. The ceramic component is CaCO3 (in two mineralogical forms constituting the two sections of the shell) and the organic is composed of proteins (and, also, likely to contain lipids and polysaccharides). The outer region of the shell has the prismatic section (P) in which the calcitic (rhombohedral CaCO3: R3m) crystallites are oriented perpendicular to the shell plane. The inner region has the nacreous section (N); here pseudohexagonal platelets (single crystals of microtiles) of aragonite (orthorhombic, Pmmm) are oriented parallel to the shell plane. The calcite crystallites are about a few micrometers in edge, and have an aspect ratio of about 5. The aragonite platelets have a thickness of 0.25– 0.4 micrometers, and an edge length of 5 micrometers (aspect ratio of < or = 0.1!)...While the prismatic layer provides the hardness, the nacreous layer, with alternating layers of aragonite platelets and organic film in between, provides the toughness to the shell. In both regions, the organic constitutes less than 5% by volume of the composites. This results in an "ideal" impact resistant material. (Graham and Sarikaya 2000:145-146)

  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Graham, T.; Sarikaya, M. 2000. Growth dynamics of red abalone shell: a biomimetic model. Materials Science and Engineering C. 11(2): 145-153.
  • Mayer, G. 2006. New classes of tough composite materials-Lessons from natural rigid biological systems. Materials Science and Engineering C. 26(8): 1261-1268.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Haliotis rufescens

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 59 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GGAACTGCACTC---AGTCTTTTAATTCGGGCCGAACTTGGCCAGCCAGGGGCACTCTTGGGGGAT---GACCAACTCTATAACGTAATTGTAACAGCCCACGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCCTAGTTATACCACTAATAATTGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCTTTAATA---TTAGGGGCACCAGACATAGCTTTTCCCCGACTAAATAACATAAGATTCTGACTCCTTCCGCCATCCTTAACCCTACTCCTAACATCAGGCGCTGTAGAAAGAGGAGCGGGGACGGGCTGAACAGTCTACCCTCCCCTCTCTAGTAACCTTGCCCACGCAGGAGCATCAGTAGACTTA---GCAATTTTCTCCCTACACCTAGCCGGAATCTCATCAATTTTAGGGGCAGTAAACTTTATTACTACAGTAATAAATATACGTGTAAAAGCACAGCCCCTAGAACGAATGCCATTATTTGTTTGATCAGTAAAAATTACCGCCATCCTACTACTTCTATCACTACCTGTTCTAGCAGGT---GCCATTACAATACTCCTAACCGACCGTAAT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Haliotis rufescens

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 15
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

In the recent past, the abalone has been over-fished and exploited by fisheries, and by commercial and sport divers. As a result, abalone populations have been drastically reduced. California has passed many strict regulations in order to keep the abalone population flourishing. These laws include protecting abalone smaller than 8 inches in diameter, prohibiting the canning of abalone, and also prohibiting the shipment of fresh or frozen meat out of state.

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: It ranges from Sunset Bay, Oregon to Bahia San Bartolome, Baja, California, including the Farallon and Channel Islands and is extremely rare disjunctly in British Columbia.

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

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Threats

Comments: This species is fished commercially.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Abalone is commercially valuable for is edible foot, which is considered a delicacy and marketed fresh, dried, powdered, or frozen in fillets and steaks. The bulk of the crop goes to restaurants all over the world. About 2,800 metric tons or approx. 80, 000 individuals are taken in annually. The abalone shell, with its iridescent greens, blues, pinks and copper colors is used as a source of mother-of-pearl for art, and it is also found in many common decorative items such as buttons, ornaments, and trinkets.

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: The Abalone Recovery and Management Plan uses results of fishery independent transect surveys at eight index sites to regulate total allowable catch for the recreational fishery. Results of subsequent surveys in 2003 and 2005 indicate no change is needed in the current total allowable catch limits (Kashiwada and Taniguchi, 2007). A table of abalone sizes as a function of time for the Taussian model, from which an estimate of the number of years to grow into the fishery (12.0 =- 1 year) is presented in Rogers-Bennett et al. (2007). Mortality estimates are also presented.

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Wikipedia

Red abalone

Interior of the shell of a red abalone. The US coin (quarter) is 23 mm, or a little under an inch in diameter
Outer surface of shell of red abalone, viewed from the anterior end. The coin is 23 mm (almost 1 inch) across

The red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, is a species of very large edible sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Haliotidae, the abalones, ormer shells or paua. [1]

Red abalone is the largest,[2] and most common abalone found in the northern part of the state of California, and it is the only species of abalone still legally harvested (on a restricted basis) there.

Distribution[edit]

The red abalone can be found along the west coast of North America, from Oregon, United States to Baja California, Mexico.

Habitat[edit]

Red abalone live in rocky areas with kelp. They primarily feed on bull kelp and giant kelp. They are found from the intertidal zone to water of 100 foot depth.

Shell description[edit]

The red abalone's shell length can reach a maximum of 31 cm, making it the largest species of abalone in the world.

The shell is large, thick, and dome-shaped. It is usually a brick red color externally. Typically the shell has three or four oval holes or respiratory pores. These holes collectively make up what is known as the selenizone which form as the shell grows. The inside of the shell is strongly iridescent and has a large central muscle.

External anatomy of soft parts[edit]

Below the edge of the shell, the black epipodium and tentacles can be seen. The underside of the foot is yellowish white in color.

Diseases[edit]

Red abalones are subject to a chronic, progressive and lethal disease: the Withering Syndrome or abalone wasting disease. This disease has had a poorly understood impact on the species overall, but populations still seem low.

History of human use[edit]

Red abalone has been used since prehistoric times—red abalone shells have been found in Channel Island archaeological sites dated to nearly 12,000 years old. Red abalone middens—refuse deposits where red abalone shells are a major constituent—are abundant in archaeological sites of the Northern Channel Islands dated between about 7500 and 3500 years ago. The Native American Chumash peoples also harvested this species along the Central California coast in the pre-contact era.[3] The Chumash and other California Indians also used red abalone shells to make a variety of fishhooks, beads, ornaments, and other artifacts.

History of diseases[edit]

Inner view of the shell of a red abalone.

In the 1980s, an employee of the California Department of Fish & Game, who was privately farming abalone in California, imported some Haliotis midae abalone from South Africa, and failed to quarantine the individuals of this foreign species. This introduced a parasite of the shell, a species of sabellid polychaete worm Terebrassabella heterouncinata. This species escaped into the ocean at Cayucos, California, where an abalone farm had long been established. It was also introduced into the wild at many other sites. Fortunately, Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with the staff of the Abalone Farm, California Department of Fish and Game biologists, and teams of volunteers, many from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo were successful in eradicating the pest population.[4]

Shortly after this, another disease of abalone (which proved to be devastating to wild populations as well as farmed abalone) appeared on Santa Cruz Island, and was subsequently spread to the other Channel Islands, and from there to the mainland of California. This disease was known as "Withering Syndrome" because the abalones starved to death even when food was plentiful. This was because the parasite infested the digestive tract of the abalones and prevented digestion and absorption of kelp, the abalone's primary food source.

Coincidentally, Withering Syndrome first appeared a few years after H. midae were imported into California, near Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island, adjacent to the area where seaweed was harvested for an abalone farm at Port Hueneme, California. Withering Syndrome was found to spread from there to the other islands.[5]

Withering Syndrome was accidentally introduced to Northern California not only by abalone farmers but also by the California Dept. of Fish & Game employees, who planted abalone infected by Withering Syndrome into wild places north of Point Conception, where the disease had not been successful at spreading naturally due to the colder waters.[6]

At first the pathologist for the California Dept. of Fish & Game claimed that the disease which caused Withering Syndrome was caused by parasites of the abalone's nephridia, but scientists were unable to prove this using established protocols for transmission and infection.

Withering Syndrome, over-fishing, and habitat loss has been responsible for the listing of black abalone and white abalone as Endangered Species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife will begin a program to reintroduce abalone. Withering Syndrome has struck all the abalone farms in California at one time or another, and has also been spread to Iceland and Ireland by the export of infected California Red Abalone, H. rufescens.

Abalone exported to Israel before H. midae were imported to California were not reported to have Withering Syndrome. Black abalone, red abalone, green abalone, white abalone, and two other species of abalone have virtually disappeared from Southern California because of Withering Syndrome, while the Northern California populations have remained more numerous because of the colder waters. Green abalone and white abalone are now not common in Northern California, whereas they were once numerous in Southern California, and black abalone may become extinct in the near future.

Farming[edit]

Because of the destruction of most wild populations of abalone, abalone farming has become a booming business. Unlike some aquaculture, growing abalone has little environmental impact because the abalone eat fast-growing kelp, which regrows quickly upon harvest.

Wild harvest[edit]

In 1916, documentation of the modern California fishery began.[7] Fishing for these abalone populations peaked in the 1950s and 1960s but was followed by a decline in all five species (red, green, pink, white, and black abalones) of the fishery.[7] Prior to this point, the fishery seemed sustainable with the increase in species that could be fished and the expansion of fishing areas.[8] The California Fish and Game Commission ended fishing for abalone in 1997 though additional factors that were involved in the depletion of the fisheries included disease, recovery of the sea otter population.[7]

In Northern California, however, commercial fishing was only legal for three years during World War II.[9] As a result, a recreational fishery still exists in northern California. Because scuba diving to harvest abalone is banned, the fishery consists of shore pickers searching the rocks at low tide, and free divers using breath-hold diving to search for them. This essentially creates a reserve for the abalone in the water below thirty feet, where few divers are skilled enough to go. Currently, the minimum legal size is 7 inches, and three specimens may be taken per day. There is also an annual legal limit of 18 abalone per person and 9 per county.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Rosenberg, G. (2014). Haliotis rufescens Swainson, 1822. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=445357 on 2014-10-28
  2. ^ Red Abalone University of California, Santa Barbara
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Los Osos Back Bay, Megalithic Portal, editor A. Burnham (2008) Megalithic.co.uk
  4. ^ Carolynn S. Culver & Armand M Kuris 2000, The apparent eradication of a locally established introduced marine pest. Biological Invasions 2: 245-253 (2000)
  5. ^ Kuris & Lafferty 1993, Mass mortality of the black abalone Haliotis cracherodii on the California Channel Islands: tests of epidemiological hypotheses. Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 96: 239-248.1993
  6. ^ Carolyn S. Friedman and Carl A. Finley. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 60(11): 1424–1431 (2003) Anthropogenic introduction of the etiological agent of withering syndrome into northern California abalone populations via conservation efforts.
  7. ^ a b c Haaker, Peter L; Taniguchi, Ian; Artusio, Mark (2005). "Assessment of Abalone Stocks in Southern California: The First Stage of Recovery.". In: Godfrey, JM; Shumway, SE. Diving For Science 2005. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences Symposium on March 10–12, 2005 at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, Groton, Connecticut. (American Academy of Underwater Sciences). Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  8. ^ Karpov, K.A., P.L. Haaker, I.K. Taniguchi and L. Rogers-Bennett (2000). "Serial depletion and the collapse of the California abalone (Haliotis spp.) Fishery.". In Workshop on rebuilding Abalone stocks in British Columbia. Edited by A. Campbell. Can. Spec. Publ. Fish. Aquatic. Sci. 
  9. ^ "Marine Protected Areas in Central California and Potential Benefits to Selected Species: Abalone". California Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  • Geiger D.L. & Owen B. (2012) Abalone: Worldwide Haliotidae. Hackenheim: Conchbooks. viii + 361 pp. page(s): 120
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