Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 3, pp 851–861 | Cite as

Characteristics of feeding on dinoflagellates by newly hatched larval crabs

  • Nicole Burnett
  • Stephen SulkinEmail author
Research Article


The zoeal larvae of brachyuran crabs must feed soon after hatching on a diet that includes large micro- and mesozooplankton in order to satisfy nutritional requirements. However, newly hatched larvae have been shown to ingest a variety of dinoflagellates, perhaps using microbial carbon sources to sustain them until they encounter more favored prey. Ingestion of dinoflagellates by larval crabs has been documented previously under conditions in which the larvae were exposed to algae provided in monoculture or in defined mixtures of cells. We report here on experiments conducted on the hatching stage of five crab species to determine if ingestion of dinoflagellates occurred when they were provided in combination with Artemia sp. nauplii or after a period of feeding on mesozooplankton. Quantitative measurements of chl a in the larval guts provided evidence of ingestion of algal cells. Active ingestion of the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum micans at specified intervals during an extended feeding period was determined on larvae of two crab species using fluorescently labeled cells provided for brief periods at prescribed time intervals. Stage 1 larvae of four of the five crab species ingested dinoflagellates when they were provided in combination with nauplii and larvae of all five species ingested cells after feeding solely on nauplii for 24 h. Ingestion of algal cells was first evident in the larval guts after 6 h of feeding at both low (200 cell ml−1) and high (1,000 cells ml−1) prey densities. Higher prey densities resulted in higher gut chl a. Larvae continuously exposed to dinoflagellates actively ingested cells at every 3 h interval tested over a 36 h period. Results confirm previous studies that larvae will ingest dinoflagellates even when they are encountered in a mixed prey field or when having previously fed. Ingestion of cells may occur on a continual basis over time.


Dinoflagellate Prey Density Crab Species Larval Crab Cancer Magister 
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This paper includes data submitted in partial fulfillment of the Master’s of Science degree to Western Washington University by the first author. The first author was supported by graduate assistantships provided by the Shannon Point Marine Center and received further support from the National Science Foundation through grant #9729316. We thank F. Perez, G. McKeen, N. Schwarck, H. Ko, S. Strom, G. Muller-Parker and B. Bingham for technical assistance. Experiments conducted as part of this research comply with the laws of the United States of America.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shannon Point Marine CenterAnacortesUSA

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