Marine Biology

, Volume 91, Issue 4, pp 481–489 | Cite as

Population dynamics of the commensal spider crab Inachus phalangium (Decapoda: Maiidae)

  • R. Diesel


The ecology of the spider crab Inachus phalangium (Fabricius, 1775) (Decapoda: Maiidae) was studied in the field. I. phalangium inhabits the sublittoral on the sea anemone Anemonia sulcata Pennant. From July 1981 to April 1984 in the Mediterranean (Banyuls sur Mer, southern France) more than 3000 anemones were examined and ca 1800 I. phalangium were found on them. The population dynamics' generation cycles, reproductive activities and the dynamics of the sex ratio were investigated. The density of juveniles (crabs before the pubertal moult) on anemones changed in a yearly cycle from low in the first six months to very high in the second six months. The first occasional young crabs of a generation appeared in March/April (3rd and 4th decapodite stages) on the anemones. Their density increased enormously in the following months. The generation grew gradually on the anemones and moulted into puberty in September-January. Density of adults (crabs after the pubertal moult) on anemones changed in a yearly cycle from low to high from the summer to winter months. A new adult generation was recruited every autumn through the pubertal moult and disappeared in the following summer. Female reproductive activity continued throughout the year. Females carried several broods in succession, but the frequency of breeding females fluctuated on a yearly cycle. The highest percentage of egg-carrying females, i.e. the peak of the reproductive season, lay in the first half of the year. The maximal life span of a generation, from the hatching of the first larvae to the disappearance of the last adults, lasted 1.5 to 2 years. Males moulted into puberty ca one month later than females. The moulting distribution of adult males had roughly the same course as in females. An adult male generation diet out about one to two months before the female generation. Life expectancy was therefore 14 to 17 months for females and 12 to 15 months for males. The sex ratio of juveniles shortly before the pubertal moult was balanced. The sex ratio of adults shifted from 1:1 at the beginning of the reproductive period to ca 1:9 in favour of females at its end.


Population Dynamic Adult Male Yearly Cycle Generation Cycle Reproductive Period 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Diesel
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck-Institut für VerhaltensphysiologieSeewiesenFederal Republic of Germany

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