Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 451–458 | Cite as

Detrital subsidy to the supratidal zone provides feeding habitat for intertidal crabs

  • Tyler L. Lewis
  • Malte Mews
  • Dennis E. Jelinski
  • Martin Zimmer


Beach-cast wrack of marine origin is considered a spatial subsidy to the marine-terrestrial transition zone. We found that the wrack line on sand and gravel beaches of Vancouver Island was frequented by intertidal purple shore crabs,Hemigrapsus nudus (Dana 1851) and densely colonized by detritivorous talitrid amphipods. Amphipods spend the day buried in sand and forage on beach wrack during the night.H. nudus were found in supratidal wrack putches immediately after nightly high tides in field censuses, but spent most of the day and ebb tides either submerged subtidally or hidden underneath intertidal rocks and boulders. In feeding trials, intertidal shore crabs were capable of preying on talitrid amphipods. We considerH. nudus an omnivore feeding on both fresh and decaying macroalgae as well as animal prey. Although living supratidally, amphipods were significantly preferred over intertidal littorine snails by foraging shore crabs. Handling time of amphipods was significantly shorter than for littorine snails. While amphipods had a reduced risk of predation byH. nudus when buried in the sand, foraging undern eath wrack patches did not reduce predation pressure on amphipods by shore crabs. Rates of amphipod consumption by shore crabs were higher at darkness than daylight. In addition to an apparent day-night rhythm, tidal height and time elapsed since previous high tide had a significant influence on shore crab density wrack. We conclude that beach-cast wrack acts as a spatial subsidy by virtue of providing a valuable food source to talitrid amphipods, which are in turn consumed by shore crabs that ride the nightly high tide into supratidal wrack patches to reduce the risk of passing bare sand on theiry way to a feeding habitat rich in valuable prey.


Beach High Tide Shore Crab Rock Shelter Crab Density 
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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tyler L. Lewis
    • 1
  • Malte Mews
    • 2
  • Dennis E. Jelinski
    • 3
  • Martin Zimmer
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Wildlife EcologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.Zoologisches Institut LimnologieChristian-Albrechts-Universität KielGermany
  3. 3.School of Environmental StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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