Marine Biology

, Volume 102, Issue 4, pp 453–459 | Cite as

Leaf choice by crustaceans in a mangrove forest in Queensland

  • J. Camilleri


The feeding behaviour of leaf eating crustaceans feeding on leaves shed by Avicennia marina, Bruguiera gymnorhiza and Rhizophora stylosa in the mangrove forest at Myora Springs, Queensland, Australia was studied between 1980 and 1984. Individual Sesarma erythrodactyla (carapace >9 mm long), one of the most abundant species of crabs in the forest, processed approximately half a leaf from any of the three species of mangroves in 24 h under laboratory conditions. of the amount of leaf material processed, 20% was lost from the mandibles due to “sloppy feeding”, 68% was egested as faeces and 12% converted into crab biomass. Crabs processed more leaf material at 30°C than at 20°C. S. erythrodactyla preferred leaves of A. marina to those of the other two species, probably because leaves of A. marina have a lower tannin and a higher nitrogen content. Of the other two species, B. gymnorhiza was preferred to R. stylosa. Among leaves of R. stylosa, S. erythrodactyla exerts a strong preference for aged rather than freshly fallen, and for thick rather than thin leaves. The mesofauna (carapace length <9.0 mm) which processed dead mangrove leaves comprised juveniles of S. erythrodactyla, the crab Ilyograpsus paludicola, the isopod Exosphaeroma alata and the amphipods Orchestia sp. and Melita sp. These species processed between 0.2 and 24.7 mg dry wt of a leaf per individual over a period of 4 d. Of this, 72 to 85% was egested as faeces. The significance of leaf eating crabs to nutrient cycling in mangrove forests is discussed. I conclude that leaf processing by crustaceans shortens the time span between leaf fall and consumption of leaf material by organisms. This may have the effect of conserving leaf biomass inside the mangrove forest.


Biomass Tannin Nitrogen Content Nutrient Cycling Strong Preference 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Camilleri
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Systematische BotanikZürichSwitzerland

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