, Volume 105, Issue 1, pp 22–29 | Cite as

Diet composition influences the fitness of the herbivorous crab Grapsus albolineatus

  • Robin Kennish
Ecophysiology Original Paper


The tropical rocky shore crab Grapsus albolineatus feeds primarily on filamentous algae but eats animal matter whenever it is available. During the summer the crab's diet switches to encrusting algae due to a die-off of filamentous algae. As a result of the switch the nutrients in the diet of the crab vary seasonally and may influence the fitness of the crab. Maintenance, growth, reproductive performance and nutrient storage of crabs were examined under four dietary regimes of increasing nutritional value ranging from low organic to high protein content. The nutritional quality of these diets significantly affected crab survival and moulting. Crabs fed on the nutritionally superior diet of algae and meat exhibited enhanced growth, higher levels of energy in the reproductive organs and stored more energy in the hepatopancreas than did individuals on the shore and crabs fed only on algal diets in the laboratory. Filamentous algae were a better food source than other algae, resulting in fewer deaths and superior levels of maintenance and growth. Growth and maintenance can occur on a pure algal diet, but reproductive performance and nutrient storage require some degree of added nutrients in the form of animal matter in the diet. Crabs fed coralline or foliose algae had higher mortality and fewer successful moults than crabs fed the other two diets. The fitness of G. albolineatus appears to be limited by the amount of extra nutrients obtained from animal matter. The opportunistic consumption of animal material in the form of carrion, or of animals associated with dietary algae, could be a key factor in the reproductive success of this crab.

Key words

Algal diet Growth Storage Reproduction Tropical Rocky shore 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Avery HW, Spotila JR, Congdon JD, Fischer RU Jr, Standora EA, Avery SB (1993) Roles of diet protein and temperature in the growth and nutritional energetics of juvenile slider turtles, Trachemys scripta. Physiol Zool 66: 902–925Google Scholar
  2. Begon M, Harper JL, Townsend CR (1986) Ecology: individuals, population and communities. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Benavides AG, Cancino JM, Ojeda FP (1994) Ontogenetic change in the diet of Aplodactylus punctatus (Pisces: Aplodactylidae): an ecophysiological explanation. Mar Biol 118: 1–5Google Scholar
  4. Boyd CE, Goodyear CP (1971) Nutritive quality of food in ecological systems. Arch Hydrobiologie 69: 256–270Google Scholar
  5. Brey T, Rumhor H, Ankar S (1988) Energy content of macrobenthic invertebrates: general conversion factors from weight to energy. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 117:271–278Google Scholar
  6. Caceres CW, Fuentes LS, Ojeda FP (1994) Optimal feeding strategy of the temperate herbivorous fish Aplodactylus punctatus: the effects of food availability on digestive and reproductive patterns. Oecologia 99:118–123Google Scholar
  7. Chang ES, O'Connor JD (1983) Metabolism and transport of carbohydrates and lipids. In: Mantel LH (ed) Biology of crustacea, vol 5. Internal anatomy and physiological regulation. Academic Press, London, pp 263–287Google Scholar
  8. Claybrook DL (1983) Nitrogen metabolism. In: Mantel LH (ed) Biology of crustacea, vol 5. Internal anatomy and physiological regulation. Academic Press, London, pp 163–213Google Scholar
  9. Fris MB, Horn MH (1993) Effects of diets of different protein content on food consumption, gut retention, protein conversion, and growth of Cebidichthys violaceus (Girard), an herbivorous fish of temerate zone marine waters. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 166: 185–202Google Scholar
  10. Gerking SD (1984) Assimilation and maintenance ration of an herbivorous fish, Sarpa salpa, feeding on a green alga. Trans Am Fish Soc 113: 378–387Google Scholar
  11. Herreid CFI, Full RJ (1988) Energetics and locomotion. In: Burggren WW, McMahon BR (eds) Biology of the land crabs. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 333–377Google Scholar
  12. Horn MH (1983) Optimal diets in complex environments: feeding strategies of two herbivorous fishes from a temperate rocky intertidal zone. Oecologia 58: 345–350Google Scholar
  13. Horn MH, Neighbors MA (1984) Protein and nitrogen assimilation as a factor in predicting the seasonal macroalgal diet of the monkeyface prickleback. Trans Am Fish Soc 113: 388–396Google Scholar
  14. Horn MH, Neighbors MA, Murray SN (1986) Herbivore responses to a seasonally fluctuating food supply: growth potential of two temperate intertidal fishes based on the protein and energy assimilated from their macroalgal diets. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 103: 217–234Google Scholar
  15. Hughes RN (1980) Optimal foraging theory in the marine context. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 18: 423–481Google Scholar
  16. Kaehler S, Kennish R (1995) Seasonal variation in the nutrient composition of marine macroalgae in Hong Kong. Bot Mar (in press)Google Scholar
  17. Kennish R, Williams GA, Lee SY (1995) Algal seasonality on an exposed rocky shore in Hong Kong and the dietary implications for the herbivorous crab Grapsus albolineatus. Mar Biol (in press)Google Scholar
  18. Kwok PW, Lee SY (1995) The growth performances of two mangrove crabs, Chiromanthes bidens and Parasesarma plicata under different leaf litter diets. Hydrobiologia 295: 141–148Google Scholar
  19. Kyomo J (1988) Analysis of the relationship between gonads and hepatopancreas in males and females of the crab Sesarma intermedia, with reference to resource use and reproduction. Mar Biol 97: 87–93Google Scholar
  20. Marken Lichtenbelt WD van (1993) Optimal foraging of a herbivorous lizard, the green iguana, in a seasonal environment. Oecologia 95: 246–256Google Scholar
  21. Marken Lichtenbelt WD van, Wesselingh RA, Vogel JT, Albers KBM (1993) Energy budgets in free-living iguanas in a seasonal environment. Ecology 74: 1157–1172Google Scholar
  22. Mattson W Jr (1980) Herbivory in relation to plant nitrogen content. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 11: 119–161Google Scholar
  23. Montgomery WL, Gerking SD (1980) Marine macroalgae as foods for fishes: an evaluation of potential food quality. Environ Biol Fish 5: 143–153Google Scholar
  24. O'Connor NJ (1992) Influence of dietary nitrogen on body chemical composition of the salt-marsh fiddler crabs Uca pugilator and U. pugnax. Bull Mar Sci 50: 404–410Google Scholar
  25. Pyke GH (1984) Optimal foraging theory: a critical review. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 15: 523–538Google Scholar
  26. Pyke GH, Pullian HR, Charnov EL (1977) Optimal foraging: a selective review of theory and tests. Q Rev Biol 52: 137–152Google Scholar
  27. Rushton SP, Hassall M (1983) The effects of food quality on the life history parameters of the terrestrial isopod (Armadillium vulgare) (Latreille). Oecologia 57: 257–261Google Scholar
  28. Salonen K, Sarvala J, Hakala I, Viljanen M-L (1976) The relation of energy and organic carbon in aquatic invertebrates. Limnol Oceanogr 21: 724–730Google Scholar
  29. Sastry AN (1983) Ecological aspects of reproduction. In: Vernberg FJ, Vernberg WB (eds) Biology of crustacea, vol 8. Environmental adaptations. Academic Press, London, pp 179–271Google Scholar
  30. Sibly RM (1981) Strategies in digestion and defecation. In: Townsend CR, Calow P (eds) Physiological ecology: an evolutionary approach to resource use. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 109–139Google Scholar
  31. Spaargaren DH, Haefner PA Jr (1994) Interactions of ovary and hepatopancreas during the reproductive cycle of Crangon crangon (L.). II. Biochemical relationships. J Crust Biol 14: 151–178Google Scholar
  32. Taghon GL (1981) Beyond selection: optimal ingestion rate as a function of food value. Am Nat 118: 202–214Google Scholar
  33. Williams GA (1993) Seasonal variation in algal species richness and abundance in the presence of molluscan herbivores on a tropical rocky shore. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 167: 261–275Google Scholar
  34. Wolcott DL, O'Connor NJ (1992) Herbivory in crabs: adaptations and ecological considerations. Am Zool 32: 370–381Google Scholar
  35. Wolcott DL, Wolcott TG (1984) Food quality and cannibalism in the red land crab Gecarcinus lateralis. Physiol Zool 57: 318–324Google Scholar
  36. Wolcott DL, Wolcott TG (1987) Nitrogen limitation in the herbivorous land crab Cardisoma guanhumi. Physiol Zool 60: 262–268Google Scholar
  37. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical analysis, 2nd edn. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin Kennish
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Swire Institute of Marine ScienceThe University of Hong KongShek OHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and BiodiversityThe University of Hong KongShek OHong Kong

Personalised recommendations