Marine Biology

, 163:212 | Cite as

Scavenger and burrowing features of Hippa pacifica (Dana 1852) on a range of tropical sandy beaches

  • M. Lastra
  • J. López
  • J. Troncoso
  • D. M. Hubbard
  • J. E. Dugan
Original paper


Carrion consumption and scavenging are increasingly recognized for their role in community structure and food web dynamics The Pacific mole crab Hippa pacifica (Dana 1852) is a conspicuous scavenger of the swash zone of exposed sandy beaches on islands of the Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions. Our findings on the population structure of this species on Hawaiian beaches differed with the method of sampling used (baited vs. non-baited). The rapid attraction and aggregation of large crabs to bait stations contrasted with the population samples dominated by small crabs collected in the absence of bait. This result suggested that small individuals were excluded by larger crabs when competing for carrion resources. Burrowing velocity (mm s−1) increased with increasing carapace length, meaning that large individuals were more efficient than small crabs in the harsh hydrodynamic environment of the swash. Burrowing assays to exhaustion in laboratory conditions indicated that the ability of the crabs to cope with the harsh environment of the swash zone is a body size-dependent feature, independent of sex or fecundity state. We simulated the potential effect of the hydrodynamic and sediment instability typical of the swash zone of reflective beaches with a consecutive sequence of removals from the sediment. Following this treatment, the burrowing times of the larger crabs were shorter than those of the small individuals. Crab abundance was not related to sand grain size or to beach morphodynamics. Abundance was correlated with the amount of edible organic matter in the sediments, suggesting that H. pacifica is a highly opportunistic species, able to feed on a wider range of potential food sources than expected.


Beach Sedimentary Organic Matter Carapace Length Surf Zone Bait Station 
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.



This study was funded by the Autonomic Government of Galicia—Xunta de Galicia (Grant: GRC2013-004).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


  1. Beasley JC, Olson ZH, DeVault TL (2012) Carrion cycling in food webs: comparisons among terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Oikos 121:1021–1026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beckwitt R (1985) Population genetics of the sand crab, Emerita analoga Stimpson, in southern California. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 91:45–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bligh EG, Dyer W (1959) A rapid method for total lipid extraction and purification. Can J Biochem Physiol 37:911–917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonnet DD (1946) The Portuguese man of war as a food source for the sand crab (Emerita pacifica). Science 103:148–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Britton JC, Morton B (1994) Food choice, detection, time spent feeding, and consumption by two species of Nassariidae from Monterey Bay, California. Veliger 37:81–92Google Scholar
  6. Brown AC (1981) An estimate of the cost of free existence in the sandy-beach whelk Bullia digitalis (Dillwyn) on the west coast of South Africa. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 49:51–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caine EA (1975) Feeding and masticatory structures of selected Anomura (Crustacea). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 18(3):277–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dawson MN, Barber PH, Gonzales LI, Toonen RJ, Dugan JE, Grosberg RK (2011) Phylogeography of Emerita analoga (Crustacea, Decapoda, Hippidae), an eastern Pacific Ocean sand crab with long-lived pelagic larvae. J Biogeog 38(8):1600–1612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dubois M, Gilles KA, Hamilton SK, Rebers PA (1956) Colorimetric method for determination of sugars and related substances. Anal Chem 28:350–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dugan JE, Hubbard D, Wenner A (1994) Geographic variation in life history of the sand crab, Emerita analoga (Stimpson) on the California coast: relationships to environmental variables. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 181:255–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dugan JE, Hubbard DM, Lastra M (2000) Burrowing abilities and swash behavior of three crabs, Emerita analoga Stimpson, Blepharipoda occidentalis Randall and Lepidopa californica Efford (Anomura, Hippoidea), of exposed sandy beaches. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 255(2):229–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dugan JE, Hubbard DM, McCrary M, Pierson M (2003) The response of macrofauna communities and shorebirds to macrophyte wrack subsidies on exposed sandy beaches of southern California. Est Coastl Shelf Sci 58S:133–148Google Scholar
  13. Efford IE (1967) Neoteny in sand crabs of the genus Emerita. Crustaceana 13(1):81–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Efford IE (1972) The distribution of the sand crabs, Hippa strigillata (Stimpson) and Hippa pacifica (Dana) in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (Decapoda, Anomura). Crustaceana 23:119–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fabiano M, Danovaro R (1994) Composition of organic matter in sediments facing a river estuary (Tyrrhenian Sea): relationships with bacteria and microphytobenthic biomass. Hydrobiologia 277:71–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fabiano M, Danovaro R, Fraschetti S (1995) A 3-year time series of elemental and biochemical composition of organic matter in subtidal sandy sediments of the Ligurian Sea (Northwestern Mediterranean). Cont Shelf Res 15:1453–1469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Faulkes Z, Paul DH (1997) Digging in sand crabs (Decapoda, Anomura, Hippoidea): interleg coordination. J Exp Biol 200:793–805Google Scholar
  18. Fichez R (1991) Composition fate of organic matter in submarine cave sediments; implications for the biogeochemical cycle of organic carbon. Oceanol Acta 14:369–377Google Scholar
  19. Foltan P, Sheppard S, Konvicka M, Symondson WOC (2005) The significance of facultative scavenging in generalist predator nutrition: detecting decayed prey in the guts of predators using PCR. Mol Ecol 14(13):4147–4158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fusaro C (1978) Food availability and egg production: a field experiment with Hippa pacifica Dana (Decapoda; Hippidae). Pac Sci 32:17–23Google Scholar
  21. Haley SR (1979) Sex ratio as a function of size in Hippa pacifica Dana (Crustacea, Anomura, Hippidae): a test of the sex reversal and differential growth rate hypotheses. Am Nat 113:391–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Haley SR (1982) Zonation by size of the pacific mole crab, Hippa pacifica Dana (Crustacea: anomura: Hippidae), in Hawaii. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 58:221–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanson AJ (1969) The larval development of the sand crab Hippa cubensis (De Saussure) in the laboratory (Decapoda, Anomura). Crustaceana 16:143–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Holt RD (2008) Theoretical perspectives on resource pulses. Ecology 89:671–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. King NJ, Bailey DM, Priede IG, Browman HI (2007) Role of scavengers in marine ecosystems. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 350:175–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King RA, Read DSS, Traugott M, Symondson WOC (2008) Molecular analysis of predation: a review of best practice for DNA-based approaches. Mol Ecol 17:947–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lafrance M, Helga G, Cliche G (2002) Low temperature, but not air exposure slows the recuperation of juvenile scallops, Placopecten magellanicus from exhausting scape responses. J Shellfish Res 21:605–618Google Scholar
  28. Lastra M, Dugan JE, Hubbard DM (2002) Burrowing and swash behavior of the Pacific mole crab Hippa pacifica (Anomura, Hippidae) in tropical Sandy beaches. J Crustacean Biol 22:53–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lastra M, Page HM, Dugan JE, Hubbard DM, Rodil IF (2008) Processing of allochthonous macrophyte subsidies by sandy beach consumers: estimates of feeding rates and impacts on food resources. Mar Biol 154(1):163–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laws EA, Redalje DG, Haas LW, Bienfang PK, Eppley RW, Harrison WG, Karl DM, Marra J (1984) High phytoplankton growth and production rates in oligotrophic Hawaiian coastal waters. Limnol Oceanogr 29(6):1161–1169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leroux SJ, Loreau M (2008) Subsidy hypothesis and strength of trophic cascades across ecosystems. Ecol Lett 11:1147–1156Google Scholar
  32. Lowry OH, Rosebrough NJ (1951) Protein measurement with the folin phenol reagent. J Biol Chem 193:265–275Google Scholar
  33. Marczac LB, Thompson RM, Richardson J (2007) Meta-analysis: trophic level, habitat, and productivity shape the food web effects of resource subsidies. Ecology 88:140–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Markwell MAK, Hass SM, Bieber LM, Tolbert ME (1978) A modification of the Lowry procedure to simplify protein determination in membrane and lipoprotein samples. Ann Biochem 87:206–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marsh JB, Weinstein WJ (1966) A simple charring method for determination of lipids. J Lipid Res 7:574–576Google Scholar
  36. Matthews DC (1995) Feeding habits of the sand crab Hippa pacifica (Dana). Pac Sci 9:382–386Google Scholar
  37. McLachlan A, Jaramillo E, Donn TE, Wessels F (1993) Sandy beach macrofauna communities and their control by the physical environment: a geographical comparison. J Coast Res 15:27–38Google Scholar
  38. Moore JC, Berlow EL, Coleman DC, Ruiter PC, Dong Q, Hastings A, Johnson NC, McCann KS, Melville K, Morin PJ, Nadelhoffer K, Rosemond AD, Post DM, Sabo JL, Scow KM, Vanni MJ, Wall DH (2004) Detritus, trophic dynamics and biodiversity. Ecol Lett 7(7):584–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Motulsky HM, Brown RE (2006) Detecting outliers when fitting data with nonlinear regression—a new method based on robust nonlinear regression and the false discovery rate. Bioinformatics 7:123Google Scholar
  40. Nowlin WH, Vanni MJ, Yang LH (2008) Resource pulses in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Ecology 89:647–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Page HM, Willason SW (1982) Distribution patterns of terrestrial hermit crabs at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands. Pac Sci 36:107–117Google Scholar
  42. Page HM, Willason SW (1983) Feeding activity patterns and carrion removal by terrestrial hermit crabs at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands. Pac Sci 37:151–155Google Scholar
  43. Polis GA, Hurd SD (1996) Linking marine and terrestrial food webs: allochthonous input from the ocean supports high secondary productivity on small islands and coastal land communities. Am Nat 147:396–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rassweiler A, Rassweiler T (2011) Does rapid scavenging hide non-predation mortality in coral-reef communities? Mar Freshwater Res 62:510–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ruxton GD, Houston DC (2004) Energetic feasibility of an obligate marine scavenger. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 266:59–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sastre MP (1997) Population Fluctuations of Hippa cubensis (Saussure) (Crustacea: anomura: Hippidae) in Puerto Rico. Caribb J Sci 33:115–116Google Scholar
  47. Schlacher TA, Strydom S, Connolly RM (2013a) Multiple scavengers respond rapidly to pulsed carrion resources at the landocean interface. Acta Oecol 48:7–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schlacher TA, Strydom S, Connolly RM, Schoeman D (2013b) Donor-control of scavenging food webs at the land-ocean interface. PLoS One 8:1–15Google Scholar
  49. Shulenberger E, Hessler RR (1974) Scavenging abyssal benthic amphipods trapped under oligotrophic central North Pacific Gyre waters. Mar Biol 28(3):185–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Selva N, Fortuna MA (2007) The nested structure of a scavenger community. Proc R Soc B 274:1101–1108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stapp P, Polis GA (2003) Influence of pulsed resources and marine subsidies on insular rodent populations. Oikos 102:111–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vanagt T, Vincx M, Degraer S (2008) Is the burrowing performance of a sandy beach surfing gastropod limiting for its macroscale distribution? Mar Biol 155:387–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wenner AM (1972) Sex ratio as a function of size in marine crustacea. Am Nat 106:321–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wenner AM (1977) Food supply, feeding habits, and egg production in Pacific mole crabs (Hippa pacifica Dana). Pac Sci 31:39–47Google Scholar
  55. Wenner AM, Fusaro C (1979) An analysis of population structure in Pacific mole crabs (Hippa pacifica Dana). Biol Bull 157:205–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wenner AM, Haley SR (1981) On the question of sex reversal in mole crabs (Crustacea, Hippidae). J Crustacean Biol 1:506–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wenner AM, Ricard Y, Dugan J (1987) Hippid crab population structure and food availability on pacific shorelines. Bull Mar Sci 41:221–233Google Scholar
  58. Wentworth CK (1922) A scale of grad and class terms for clastic sediments. J Geol 30:377–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson EE, Wolkovich EM (2011) Scavenging: how carnivores and carrion structure communities. Trends Ecol Evol 26:129–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wright LD, Short AD (1984) Morphodynamic variability of surf zones and beaches: a Synthesis. Mar Geol 56:93–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Lastra
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. López
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. Troncoso
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. M. Hubbard
    • 3
  • J. E. Dugan
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Animal Biology, Marine Science FacultyUniversity of VigoVigoSpain
  2. 2.Estación de Ciencias Marinas de Toralla (ECIMAT)University of VigoVigoSpain
  3. 3.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

Personalised recommendations