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The swimming crab Charybdis smithii: distribution, biology and trophic role in the pelagic ecosystem of the western Indian Ocean
Romanov, E.; Potier, M.; Zamorov, V.V.; Ménard, F. (2009). The swimming crab Charybdis smithii: distribution, biology and trophic role in the pelagic ecosystem of the western Indian Ocean. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 156(6): 1089-1107. hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-009-1151-z
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Romanov, E.
  • Potier, M.
  • Zamorov, V.V.
  • Ménard, F.

Abstract
    Surface "swarms" of the swimming crabs Charybdis smithii are still considered as an unusual phenomenon in the open Indian Ocean, although their dense pelagic aggregations were already reported in waters off the Indian coast and in the northern Arabian Sea. Based on an extensive large-scale data series taken over 45 years, we demonstrate that C. smithii is common in the pelagic provinces of the western Indian Ocean driven by the wind monsoon regime. Swimming crabs are dispersed by the monsoon currents throughout the equatorial Indian Ocean. They aggregate at night in the upper 150-m layer, where their estimated biomass derived from pelagic trawling data can exceed 130 kg km-2. Abundance of C. smithii can reach >15,000 ind. km-2 in July (i.e. the peak of the south-west monsoon), declines by 50-fold in March and is negligible in May. C. smithii is an important prey for more than 30 species of abundant epipelagic top predators. In turn, it feeds on mesopelagic species. This swimming crab is a major species of the intermediate trophic levels and represents a crucial seasonal trophic link in the open ocean ecosystem of the western Indian Ocean. Outbursts in pelagic waters of huge biomasses of ordinarily benthic crustaceans (C. smithii and Natosquilla investigatoris) are a remarkable feature of the Indian Ocean, although similar, but smaller, events are reported in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

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