|Herbivory by the Caribbean king crab on coral patch reefs|In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
|Authors|| || Top |
- Butler IV, M.J.
- Mojica, A.M.
Caribbean coral reefs are increasingly dominated by macroalgae instead of corals due to several factors, including the decline of herbivores. Yet, virtually unknown is the role of crustacean macrograzers on coral reef macroalgae. We examined the effect of grazing by the Caribbean king crab (Mithrax spinosissimus) on coral patch reef algal communities in the Florida Keys, Florida (USA), by: (1) measuring crab selectivity and consumption of macroalgae, (2) estimating crab density, and (3) comparing the effect of crab herbivory to that of fishes. Mithrax prefers fleshy macroalgae, but it also consumes relatively unpalatable calcareous algae. Per capita grazing rates by Mithrax exceed those of most herbivorous fish, but Mithrax often occurs at low densities on reefs and its foraging activities are reduced in predator-rich environments. Therefore, the effects of grazing by Mithrax tend to be localized and when at low density contribute primarily to spatial heterogeneity in coral reef macroalgal communities.