This study presents a description of the tropical intertidal shores of Cocos Island (Isla del Coco), Pacific, Costa Rica. The intertidal zones were surveyed photographically with 116 digital images of quadrats (25 x 25 cm), and 130 of the cliffs in five days. The percent of cover and abundance of species in the intertidal zones were estimated by digital image analysis. Twenty-three taxa were found, Mollusca was the most specious (12 species). Littorinid and neritid mollusks were dominant in the higher littoral area. The predator snails Plicopurpura patula pansa, and Thais brevidentata, high densities of the pulmonate limpet Siphonaria gigas and some patches with low cover of the barnacle Tetraclita stalactifera were present in the mid-littoral zone. The encrusting algae dominate the rock surface at mid and low littoral and erect-frondose forms were only found in sheltered boulder shores. A high similarity in species identity was found between mainland and insular territories of the eastern tropical Pacific. Panamanian islands were most similar in terms of the algae assemblage of Cocos Island. The Galápagos Islands differ from Cocos Island in their higher erect-frondose and crustose algal cover, and lower densities of S. gigas. Grazing may be an important factor in structuring the intertidal community of Cocos Island and other regions of the eastern tropical Pacific. The main grazer in the cliffs and boulders was S. gigas which was larger in size (5.77 cm ± 1.00) than those of mainland and island sites in Costa Rica and Panama. Boulders and cliffs presented changes in the zonation and densities between sheltered or wave exposed areas. The position of organisms on the intertidal cliffs increased at high tidal level in more exposed sections of the coast. Moreover, topographic characteristics of boulders and cliffs influenced the densities of some gastropods around the island. Shores with ignimbrites, aa lavas or basaltic walls with a slight inclination towards the sea presented high densities of gastropods. The difference in the assemblages at Cocos Island from those of the continental and insular shores indicates high dynamics within intertidal tropical ecosystems. Rev. Biol. Trop. 56 (Suppl. 2): 171-187. Epub 2008 August 29.
Keywords: Vertical zonation, Isla del Coco, cliffs, tropical rocky shores, boulders, pulmonate limpets, encrusting algae, digital image analysis, Cocos Island, Costa Rica