Prehistoric vs. present exploitation of limpet populations in the Asturian Coast

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
Humans have exploited limpet populations in the Asturian Coast during thousands of years, according to archaeological evidence from ancient settlements. Today, limpets remain a local delicacy, and are harvested by foot in a traditional fishery which is currently unregulated. This means that the fishermen (and women!) capture limpets when, where, and as much as they want. However, in a coast characterized by very tall cliffs, the limpets can only be accessed from beaches or from breaches in the cliffs. Since travel time along the coast is limited by the duration of the tide, it is likely that the impact of human harvesting on limpet populations decreases progressively with distance from the access point. This is interesting, since limpets are known to limit the growth of the large fucoid algae which characterize the upper intertidal in this coast, thus there is a possibility that a gradient in human exploitation of limpets, may also translate to a gradient in macroalgal communities. In summary, Asturian limpets serve an extraordinary example of present-day, unregulated exploitation of a natural resource. But, can we detect human exploitation gradients at access points? Are those gradients associated to a gradual change in macroalgal community structure? Do present-day harvesters select limpet species and sizes as ancient, prehistoric harvesters? Do men and women select limpets similarly? If not, can we detect gender differences in limpet extraction in ancient settlements? This thesis involves intensive field sampling in the rocky shore and interaction with fishermen.
Requires skill to walk in the rocky shore. Some command of Spanish is advisable for interaction with local stakeholders. Some contact with the subject and possibly some sampling before 2016 would be very helpful.
Number of students: 
academic year: 
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Eva García
Other people involved: 
José Luis Acuña (
Reference Number: RP-35682