By San Diego State University
California sheephead and spiny lobsters may be helping control sea urchin populations in Southern California kelp forests, where sea otters — a top urchin predator — have long been missing, according to a new San Diego State University (SDSU) study published in the journal Ecology
. The research provides new insight into the complex predator-prey relationships in kelp forests that can be seen in the absence of sea otters.
The study is also the first to experimentally test the relative impact, or rate of feeding, of the California sheephead and spiny lobsters in comparison to sea otters, whose historical range spanned from British Columbia, Canada to Baja California, Mexico.