Observations in captivity of the activity patterns and resources utilization of the spider crab Inachus phalangium (Decapoda, Majidae)
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The spider crab Inachus phalangium is common in the sublitoral fringe of the Mediterranean Sea and north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, where it can be found in association with the snakelocks sea anemone Anemonia viridis. Studies concerning its activity patterns and the role of the host sea anemone are lacking. Our study aimed at investigating activity rhythms and resources utilization of I. phalangium reared in captivity. The main behavioral traits exhibited by I. phalangium are performed mostly at night. Two experiments were designed, one examined the time budget of various behavioral acts and the degree of association with the sea anemone, the other analyzed the behavioral response to algae and anemones. We showed that algae have a crucial role in the biology of I. phalangium and that crabs are ready to leave the protection of their host to obtain them. Algae represent both the major component of the diet and one of the most utilized sources of masking material of I. phalangium, which provide, together with specialized cryptic behaviors, protection against predators. Although our data suggest that the association with A. viridis is not obligatory, but the role of the snakelocks sea anemone in the life of I. phalangium is still central, both as an anti-predatory defense and as a nutritional source. The association of I. phalangium with algae and the anemone is a facultative biotrophic commensalistic symbiosis.
KeywordsDiesel Spider Crab Total Observation Time Reduce Predation Risk Adult Crab
We thank Angela Pasqualin, Franco Todesco for data collection, Dr. Sara Fratini and Gianna Innocenti for manuscript revision, two anonymous referees for their useful comments. This study was funded by the University of Florence and by MURST (COFIN project). R.R. was supported by a PhD fellowship from the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). All the conducted experiments comply with the current Italian laws.
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