Marine Biology

, Volume 142, Issue 5, pp 855–865 | Cite as

Feeding ecology of the three juvenile phases of the spiny lobster Panulirus argus in a tropical reef lagoon

  • P. Briones-FourzánEmail author
  • V. Castañeda-Fernández de Lara
  • E. Lozano-Álvarez
  • J. Estrada-Olivo


The three juvenile phases of the spiny lobster Panulirus argus (algal phase: 5–15 mm carapace length, CL; postalgal phase: 15–45 mm CL, and subadults: 45–80 mm CL) occur in the reef lagoon at Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The algal phase abounds in this lagoon, which is covered by extensive seagrass–algal meadows, but the density of postalgal and subadult juveniles is low, owing to the scarcity of crevice-type shelters suitable for these phases. The feeding ecology of the three juvenile phases was investigated to examine whether spatial or temporal differences in food intake, diet composition, or nutritional condition occurred among phases and could partially account for the low abundance of the larger juveniles. Juveniles were collected by divers at night, from January to November 1995, throughout the mid-lagoon and back-reef zones. Percent stomach fullness, relative weight of the digestive gland (RWDG, an index of nutritional condition), percent frequency of occurrence and percent volume of food categories in the diet were compared between sexes, juvenile phases, molt stages (postmolt, intermolt, premolt), seasons, and sampling zones (mid-lagoon and back-reef zones). Significant differences in stomach fullness occurred only among molt stages, mainly because postmolt individuals had emptier stomachs. The main food categories in all juvenile phases were crustaceans (mostly hermit crabs and brachyurans) and gastropods, but the food spectrum was wide, including many other animal taxa as well as plant matter. In June 1995, the epibenthic macrofauna was sampled in five sites in the lagoon that differed in their amount of vegetation. The most abundant taxa in all sites were decapods and gastropods, but density and diversity measures showed that the distribution of these potential prey taxa for juvenile P. argus was rather patchy. Diet overlap in juvenile lobsters was high between sexes, juvenile phases, sampling zones, seasons, and molting stages, indicating that all juveniles fed on the same general food categories throughout time. The only factor that affected the RWDG was the juvenile phase. RWDG was significantly lower in subadults than in algal and postalgal phases, suggesting a poorer nutritional condition in the largest juveniles. This may be related to the scarcity of suitable shelters for large juveniles throughout the lagoon, which may preclude subadults from exploiting food resources in areas of the lagoon where shelter is limited.


Digestive Gland Hermit Crab Food Category Sampling Zone Poor Nutritional Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge the help provided by F. Negrete-Soto in field work and data processing, and by C. Barradas-Ortiz, G. Reyes-Zavala, E. Cadena-Barrientos, and P. Rangel-Zarza in field and/or laboratory activities. V. Monroy-Velázquez, E. Cadena-Barrientos, F. Solís, and F. Escobar de la Llata helped to identify the epifauna. F. Ruiz-Rentería kindly provided the water temperature data. Comments by three anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. This project (no. 1171-N) was supported by Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT-México), including scholarships to L. and J.E.O. A scientific fishing permit (no. 270295-310-03) to collect juvenile lobsters was issued by the Secretary of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Fisheries (SEMARNAP-México).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Briones-Fourzán
    • 1
    Email author
  • V. Castañeda-Fernández de Lara
    • 1
  • E. Lozano-Álvarez
    • 1
  • J. Estrada-Olivo
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Unidad Académica Puerto MorelosUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCancúnMexico

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