Title

Behavior of juvenile American lobsters, Homarus americanus, under predation risk

Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2-1-1998

Abstract

The influence of predation risk and food deprivation on the behavior and activity of juvenile American lobsters, Homarus americanus Milne Edwards, was examined in single and paired individuals in laboratory experiments performed during 1988 and in the winter of 1991/92. In the presence of a predator (the tautog Tautoga onitis Linnaeus) restrained behind a barrier, single lobsters significantly reduced the time spent feeding at night, consumed fewer mussels, and quickly brought them back to shelter. Single lobsters did not forage during the day in any treatment. If deprived of food for 60 h, they consumed more mussels and spent more time walking than recently fed (12-h food-deprived) lobsters. Paired lobsters did forage during the day in the presence of a predator. The smaller lobsters (subdominant) in the pairs foraged for a longer time in the presence than in the absence of a predator and significantly longer than single individuals. Shelter occupancy was significantly shorter in single, recently fed lobsters in the presence of a predator compared to time spent sheltering in its absence. Among food-deprived lobsters, paired individuals spent a significantly shorter time within the shelter than single lobsters in the absence of a predator. Larger (dominant) lobsters, however, spent more time than subdominant lobsters within the shelter during all periods of the day. Without a predator, paired lobsters spent significantly more time than single ones in shelter-related activities. Under predation risk, subdominant lobsters concentrated shelter-building time during the day and built a higher percent of alternative shelters than either single or dominant lobsters. In the absence of a predator, paired lobsters walked in the open area for a significantly longer time than single ones in the absence of a predator. This apparently was associated with fighting between dominant and subdominant lobsters and the attempts of the larger lobster to drive the smaller one from its shelter. During the day, lobsters fought for a significantly longer time in the presence than in the absence of a predator. When the tautog was not constrained, mortality rate was similar in both single and paired lobsters. Mortality rate among subdominant lobsters, however, was seven times higher than among dominant lobsters. We suggest that the risk of predation interferes with the ability of single juvenile lobsters to acquire and consume food. They appear to trade off energetic consideration against risk of predation when foraging away from the shelter. The introduction of a conspecific competitor to the system may further increase risk (of the subdominant) to the predator. Intraspecific interactions tend to increase the risk of predation to smaller lobsters but increase the survival rate among larger lobsters.

Publication Title

Marine Biology

Volume

130

Issue

3

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