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Circadian shelter occupancy patterns and predator–prey interactions of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters in a reef lagoon
Weiss, H.M.; Lozano-Alvarez, E.; Briones-Fourzan, P. (2008). Circadian shelter occupancy patterns and predator–prey interactions of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters in a reef lagoon. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 153(5): 953-963.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Weiss, H.M.
  • Lozano-Alvarez, E.
  • Briones-Fourzan, P.

    The spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, is predominantly nocturnal, remaining inside shelters during the day and foraging outside at night, presumably to minimize predation risk. Predation risk generally decreases with increasing lobster size. Therefore, this study examined the hypothesis that size would influence this basic circadian pattern. Video cameras continuously recorded the shelter occupancy of juvenile lobsters (n = 72) having a carapace length (CL) of 30–62 mm that were tethered to shelters in a shallow reef lagoon. The lobsters’ shelter occupancy was 100% during the day, but declined linearly from shortly before sunset to a minimum of 50% shortly after midnight and then increased linearly, reaching 100% by 1 h after sunrise. The percent time the lobsters spent in the shelters followed a similar trend, but there was wide variability at night (0–100%) for individual lobsters. Lobsters left their shelters 2–30 times night-1, with a majority of excursions lasting <10 min. These results suggest that juvenile P. argus minimize predation risk by remaining in their shelters as long as possible but offset the energetic cost of this behavior by foraging close to their shelters for several short periods at night. This emergence pattern contrasts with those of early benthic phase lobsters (<15 mm CL), which seldom leave their shelters, and adults (>80 mm CL), which have a dusk/early evening peak in activity and leave the shelter for extended periods of time during the night. Furthermore, a minimum shelter occupancy in the middle of the night appears especially well adapted to avoid exposure to daytime predators. Videotaped observations also included interactions between lobsters and two dominant lobster predators, the triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, and the octopus Octopus cf. vulgaris. Lobsters responded differently to these predators: remaining in the shelter when attacked by a triggerfish and fleeing the shelter when attacked by an octopus. Triggerfish were nearly twice as likely to attack a lobster that was outside of the shelter than inside. Once under attack, however, a lobster had nearly the same chance of surviving if it was inside or outside. Results suggest that the patterns of shelter use and emergence change as lobsters grow, probably reflecting the interplay between perception of predation risk and the need to forage.

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