Influence of seasonal food abundance and quality on the feeding habits of an opportunistic feeder, the intertidal crab Pachygrapsus marmoratus
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- Cannicci, S., Gomei, M., Dahdouh-Guebas, F. et al. Mar Biol (2007) 151: 1331. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0570-3
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The abundance of trophic sources on the intertidal zone is discontinuous and their supply can vary both in a predictable or unpredictable way. The Mediterranean semi-terrestrial crab Pachygrapsus marmoratus, is known, as adult, to entirely rely on the intertidal trophic sources, and, consequently, it faces the fluctuations of nutritional sources and quality. To clarify the relationships between the feeding habits of an Italian population of P. marmoratus and the temporal variation of its food sources, we carried out a 2-year sampling protocol. Data on seasonal variation in composition of intertidal food item assemblages, on the average content in N and C of the commonest algae, on seasonal changes in crabs feeding habits were collected and compared using a suite of multivariate and univariate techniques. Results showed that P. marmoratus takes advantage of the recruitment phase of the most common invertebrates, affecting and controlling the abundance even of those species whose adults are out of its reach. It can act both as a herbivore, and as a carnivore that shifts between bivalves, more abundant in spring/summer, and the periwinkle Melaraphe neritoides, during winter. In conclusion, we provide evidences on the food choice of this common rocky shore species, which is very plastic and capable of relying on many trophic sources, possibly influencing the abundance and/or the population structure of a number of intertidal populations.