Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 6, pp 1331–1337 | Cite as

Shelter selection of the spiny lobster Palinurus elephas under different levels of Octopus vulgaris predation threat

  • M. GristinaEmail author
  • M. Sinopoli
  • F. Fiorentino
  • G. Garofalo
  • F. Badalamenti
Original Paper


The skill of recognizing and reacting to predators is often based on a learned component. Few studies have examined the role of learning in spiny lobster anti-predator behavior. We investigated whether European spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) shelter selection is influenced by olfactory stimuli released by one of the most common lobster predators, the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), and whether the behavioral response to octopus chemical stimuli is innate or influenced by experience. In experimental arenas, we conditioned wild-caught lobsters with three levels of predation threat: no threat, with no predator–prey interaction; medium threat, with odor and visual predator cues only; high threat, active predation risk. We subsequently tested the shelter choice of the conditioned lobster under different experimental conditions: (1) shelter plus seawater; (2) shelter plus seawater plus chemical octopus cue. Our results showed significant differences in mean shelter occupancy with conditioning level. We conclude that P. elephas individuals use chemosensory systems in predator-avoidance mechanisms. Moreover, lobsters subject to a training period of high-level predation threat were able to learn the octopus chemical stimuli and treat its odor as a cue related to predation risk. The findings relative to the spiny lobster learning abilities could be an important tool for future management of lobster populations, e.g., by re-introduction of reared juveniles, which have not yet experienced predation.


Spiny Lobster Predation Threat Predator Odor High Threat Injured Conspecific 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank G. Cicchirillo and V. Di Stefano for their time and advice. Additionally, we thank anonymous reviewers for useful comments on the submitted version.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Gristina
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Sinopoli
    • 2
  • F. Fiorentino
    • 1
  • G. Garofalo
    • 1
  • F. Badalamenti
    • 3
  1. 1.IAMC-CNRMazara del ValloItaly
  2. 2.ISPRA STSPalermoItaly
  3. 3.IAMC-CNRTrapaniItaly

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