Marine Biology

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 159–172 | Cite as

Behavioral responses of a larval crustacean to hydrostatic pressure: Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Brachyura: Xanthidae)

  • R. B. ForwardJr.
  • C. A. Wellins


Responses of the four zoeal stages of the crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould) to step and continuous changes in hydrostatic pressure were analyzed with a video system. Crabs were collected from the Neuse River estuary (North Carolina, USA) from June to August, 1987. The lower thresholds for step increases and decreases in pressure were 3 and 8 to 10 mbar, respectively. There was little change in sensitivity with zoeal development. Tests of larval responses in a light field that simulated the underwater angular light distribution indicated positive phototaxis does not occur upon pressure changes. In darkness, rates of pressure increase at and above 0.175 mbar s-1 induced high barokinesis and negative geotaxis in all but Stage IV zoeae, which had a threshold of 1.19 mbar s-1. Since larval sinking and descent swimming speeds exceed these threshold rates, larvae can move rapidly enough to produce suprathreshold changes in pressure which evoke behavioral responses. Slow rates of pressure decrease induced passive sinking while rapid rates caused an active ascent. This ascent response upon a pressure decrease is unreported among crustaceans, and is hypothesized to function for avoidance of feeding and respiratory currents of benthic invertebrates. The descent response occurs in all zoeal stages, except IV, at rates of pressure decrease (0.4 to 0.71 mbar s-1) that are within the range of ascent swimming speeds. These results support Sulkin's negative feedback depth regulation model. The absolute distances moved before corrective vertical responses to threshold rates of pressure change are initated delimit the depth regulatory window. In darkness, the asymmetry of the window would lead to an ascent. It is hypothesized that light is an additional component in depth regulation, and that the limits and symmetry of the depth regulatory window may be controlled by the level of light adaptation.


Swimming Speed Pressure Decrease Threshold Rate Zoeal Stage Neuse River Estuary 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. B. ForwardJr.
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. A. Wellins
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine LaboratoryDuke UniversityBeaufortUSA
  2. 2.Zoology DepartmentDuke UniversityUSA

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