Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 7, pp 1403–1416 | Cite as

Mating system of the burrowing crab Neohelice granulata (Brachyura: Varunidae) in two contrasting environments: effect of burrow architecture

  • M. P. Sal Moyano
  • M. A. Gavio
  • T. A. Luppi
Original Paper


Few studies conducted in crustaceans have demonstrated how habitat features could shape the mating systems. Here, the burrow of Neohelice granulata was considered as a resource used for mating, and its architecture was characterized in two contrasting study sites: Mar Chiquita Lagoon (MCL), an estuary composed of muddy sediments, and San Antonio Oeste (SAO), a marine bay composed of gravel sediment. Burrow features differed between study sites and occupant gender. Large males constructed burrows with a chamber in MCL and with a widened entrance in SAO, while small males constructed the same narrow burrows as females at both study sites. Field experiments demonstrated that burrows with chambers or widened entries are places used for copulation, although successful post-copulatory guarding was displayed only in those with chambers. The intensity of the agonistic encounters and the success of males in winning resources (burrows/females) also depend on the habitat characteristics. N. granulata shows a resource defense mating system where males employ different mating strategies according to the burrow architecture to ensure mating success.


Salt Marsh Small Male Carapace Width Ovigerous Female Agonistic Encounter 
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 wish to thank to Micaela Vallina, Ximena Sirimarco, Paula Orlando, Paola Silva and Matías Maggi for their help on field work. We gratefully acknowledge Antonio Baeza for revising an early version of the manuscript, and Martin Thiel and Colin McLay for their helpful advice and for kindly correcting our English text, which highly improved this manuscript. This work is part of the PhD thesis of M.P.S.M. Financial support was given to M.P.S.M. by Neotropical Grassland Conservancy and Idea Wild; to M.A.G. by the Universidad Nacional Mar del Plata, Project EXA 459/09; and to T.A.L. by Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Project PIP 176. M.P.S.M. had a fellowship from CONICET.

Ethical standards

The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. P. Sal Moyano
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. A. Gavio
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. A. Luppi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Mar del PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad Nacional de Mar del PlataMar del PlataArgentina

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