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Feeding and decoration preferences of the epialtidae crab Acanthonyx scutiforms


Studies on the feeding preferences of marine herbivores are very important for our better understanding of the biology and the ecological role of these organisms. Members of the family Epialtidae are usually herbivores that mask themselves with pieces of seaweed and other materials to avoid predation. In order to better understand the mechanisms of food and decorating choices of the decorator crab Acanthonyx scutiformis, two multiple-choice feeding assays were performed using fresh seaweeds and artificial food containing crude extracts of the four seaweeds Osmundaria obtusiloba, Plocamium brasiliense, Sargassum sp., and Dictyota menstrualis, offered simultaneously to this crab species. In both assays the seaweed most consumed was O. obtusiloba, followed by P. brasiliense and Sargassum sp., while D. menstrualis was the least consumed. It is suggested that A. scutiformis is a generalist feeder, but with some preference for the perennial red seaweed O. obtusiloba and the chemically-defended seaweed P. brasiliense. Decorating behavior observations revealed the preferences of A. scutiformis by P. brasiliense. This decorating behavior can be interpreted as a mechanism to avoid generalist predators, since feeding and decorating preference were not associated and the crab used only small pieces of chemically defended algae.

Acanthonix scutiformis; Feeding preference; Decoration preference

Estudos sobre preferência alimentar de herbívoros marinhos são muito importantes para o melhor entendimento da importância biológica e ecológica destes organismos. Caranguejos majídeos são usualmente herbívoros que se camuflam com pedaços de macroalgas e outros materiais para evitar a predação. Para entender melhor os mecanismos de escolha de alimento e decoração do caranguejo decorador Acanthonyx scutiformis, foram realizados dois ensaios de múltipla escolha usando macroalgas frescas e alimentos artificiais contendo extratos brutos das macroalgas Osmundaria obtusiloba, Plocamium brasiliense, Sargassum sp. e Dictyota menstrualis, oferecidas simultaneamente a esta espécie de caranguejo. Em ambos ensaios, a macroalga mais consumida foi O. obtusiloba, seguida por P. brasiliense e Sargassum sp., enquanto D. menstrualis foi menos consumida. É sugerido que A. scutiformis é um consumidor generalista, mas com alguma preferência pela macroalga vermelha perenial O. obtusiloba e a macroalga quimicamente defendida P. brasiliense. Observações sobre o comportamento decorador revelaram a preferência de A. scutiformis por P. brasiliense. Este comportamento decorador pode ser interpretado como um mecanismo para evitar predadores generalistas, uma vez que as preferências por consumo e decoração não foram relacionadas e o caranguejo usou somente pequenos pedaços de algas quimicamente defendidas.

Acanthonyx scutiformis; Preferência alimentar; Preferência por decoração

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    06 July 2009
  • Date of issue
    June 2009


  • Accepted
    03 Sept 2008
  • Received
    20 Dec 2008
  • Reviewed
    31 Mar 2008
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