HR Excellence in Science
Date: 25.10.2019

Climate change influences on the dominance hierarchy of crabs

Climate change is expected to affect the life of many aquatic organisms. While most studies focus on physiological and ecological consequences of the climatic shift, only a few investigates the effects on animal behavior. Ectotherms (animals that cannot regulate their body temperature through endogenous process) probably will have to alter their behaviors to find suitable habitats in changing ecosystems. During this process, the encounters between individuals of the same species will become more frequent and it is important to understand how temperature will affect the intraspecific interactions. Towards this end we selected a globally distributed species, present in numerous coastal and estuarine temperate systems around the world, the shore crab (Carcinus maenas). In laboratory conditions, crabs were kept at different levels of temperature (10 to 22ºC) and paired in observations tank where a single food resource was available. Their morphological characteristics and behavior during the bout for food at different levels of temperature were registered in structured ethograms. We observed that the dominance of larger individuals decreased with temperature, highlighting that the hierarchical intraspecific interactions in this species can be altered by climate change. Overall, our results suggest higher plasticity than previously acknowledged in intraspecific interactions of the shore crab.

The shore crab (Carcinus maenas).

Souza AT, Ribas FO, Moura JF, Moreira C, Campos J, Ilarri MI. 2019. Influence of temperature on intraspecific, unbalanced dyadic contests between crabs. PeerJ 7:e7845

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