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Shelter selection of the spiny lobster Palinurus elephas under different levels of Octopus vulgaris predation threat
Gristina, M.; Sinopoli, M.; Fiorentino, F.; Garofalo, G.; Badalamenti, F. (2011). Shelter selection of the spiny lobster Palinurus elephas under different levels of Octopus vulgaris predation threat. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 158(6): 1331-1337.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Gristina, M.
  • Sinopoli, M.
  • Fiorentino, F.
  • Garofalo, G.
  • Badalamenti, F.

    The skill of recognizing and reacting to predators is often based on a learned component. Few studies have examined the role of learning in spiny lobster anti-predator behavior. We investigated whether European spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) shelter selection is influenced by olfactory stimuli released by one of the most common lobster predators, the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), and whether the behavioral response to octopus chemical stimuli is innate or influenced by experience. In experimental arenas, we conditioned wild-caught lobsters with three levels of predation threat: no threat, with no predator–prey interaction; medium threat, with odor and visual predator cues only; high threat, active predation risk. We subsequently tested the shelter choice of the conditioned lobster under different experimental conditions: (1) shelter plus seawater; (2) shelter plus seawater plus chemical octopus cue. Our results showed significant differences in mean shelter occupancy with conditioning level. We conclude that P. elephas individuals use chemosensory systems in predator-avoidance mechanisms. Moreover, lobsters subject to a training period of high-level predation threat were able to learn the octopus chemical stimuli and treat its odor as a cue related to predation risk. The findings relative to the spiny lobster learning abilities could be an important tool for future management of lobster populations, e.g., by re-introduction of reared juveniles, which have not yet experienced predation.

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