Marine Biology

, 166:15 | Cite as

Behavioral mechanisms of swimming crab (Portunus trituberculatus) preying on Manila clams (Ruditapes philippinarum): effects of substrate and competition

  • Dapeng Liu
  • Fang WangEmail author
  • Yunliang Lu
  • Nan Hu
  • Xianpeng Su
  • Jingjing Liu
  • Boshan Zhu
Original paper


Although constructions for marine ranching may influence the local habitat, few studies have focused on the effect of substrate changes on the predator–prey relationship in the benthic community. A predator–prey system was established in the laboratory to investigate how substrate type and conspecific competitor affect the behavioral mechanisms of swimming crab (Portunus trituberculatus Miers) foraging on Manila clams (Ruditapes philippinarum Adams and Reeve). Specifically, we calculated predation rate and quantified foraging behaviors and encounter behaviors between crabs. Circadian differences in foraging behaviors and intraspecific interactions were observed as a result of the burying behavior of crab in the substrate. Spatial refuges produced by the substrate reduced predation rate significantly. The effects of substrates were enhanced gradually by increasing particle size, reflected by continuously decreasing foraging efficiency. Crabs spent considerable time searching, but rarely encountered with a clam. The decline in foraging efficiency intensified the interactions between crabs (e.g., kleptoparasitism, and fighting), and hindered further foraging, indicated by an increase in proportion of handling time and decrease in probability of consumption upon capture. Additionally, crabs raised the probability of capture upon encounter in response to the decline of prey accessibility. The dual protections provided by substrate and intraspecific interactions decreased the predation risk of clams and the foraging efficiency of crabs. These mechanisms might help to reveal the effects of substrate changes on crabs’ predation and competition in marine ranching.



We thank Prof. Hui Liu and Prof. Gee Chapman for providing language help and writing assistance. We also would like to express our great appreciation to the editor and the three reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.


This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (no. 201861027), the Shandong Province Natural Science Fund Project (no. ZR2018MC028), and the Scientific Research Project of Tianjin Education Commission (no. 2017KJ186).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed, and all necessary approvals have been obtained.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3461_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (241 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 240 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dapeng Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fang Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yunliang Lu
    • 3
  • Nan Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xianpeng Su
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jingjing Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Boshan Zhu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Key Laboratory of MaricultureMinistry of Education, Ocean University of ChinaQingdaoChina
  2. 2.Function Laboratory for Marine Fisheries Science and Food Production ProcessesQingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina
  3. 3.Marine Science and Engineering CollegeQingdao Agricultural UniversityQingdaoChina

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