Amaral, Valter, Paula, José, Hawkins, Stephen and Jenkins, Stuart
Cannibalistic interactions in two co-occurring decapod species: Effects of density, food, alternative prey and habitat
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 368, (1), . (doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2008.10.025).
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Cannibalism is a potentially important factor in the regulation of populations in a range of habitats. The intensity of this biotic factor may be determined by both intra and interspecific interactions. Cancer pagurus and Porcellana platycheles are two co-occurring decapods on Atlantic rocky shores. In laboratory mesocosms, we investigated intra and intersize class cannibalistic and interspecific predatory behaviours in those species. We addressed the effects of prey and predator densities, food, starvation, alternative prey and habitat type. No agonistic behaviour was noted in P. platycheles, suggesting a non-aggressive co-existence between gregarious individuals. Predation of C. pagurus on P. platycheles was intense, possibly accounting for the spatial segregation observed in the natural environment. Cannibalism among C. pagurus juveniles was low and only on vulnerable prey (i.e. at moulting), suggesting a non-aggressive co-existence among juveniles. However, intersize class cannibalism in C. pagurus was intense (ontogenetic shift), possibly reflecting the juvenile-adult segregation in the natural environment. Prey and predator densities, food and habitat type strongly influenced this behaviour. Possible interference among cannibals was noted, with lower prey consumption at high predator density. Food supply alone had more effect on cannibalistic rate than did alternative prey (P. platycheles) and predator starvation. Structurally complex habitats (small pebble and Fucus serratus habitats) yielded higher prey survival than the sandy habitat, and the behaviours of both prey and cannibals reflected the small-scale spatial distribution of individuals in the wild. Intersize class cannibalism and interspecific agonistic relationships may account for the intertidal distribution of crab species at low tide.
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