Coral Reefs

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 1019–1022 | Cite as

Guard crabs alleviate deleterious effects of vermetid snails on a branching coral

  • A. C. Stier
  • C. S. McKeon
  • C. W. Osenberg
  • J. S. Shima


Stony corals provide important structural habitat for microbes, invertebrates, and fishes, which in some cases has led to the evolution of beneficial interactions that may protect corals from environmental factors such as thermal stress, nutrient limitation, competitors, or predators. For example, guard crabs (Trapezia spp.) protect corals (Pocillopora sp.) from attacks by crown-of-thorn seastar and sedimentation. Here, a field experiment demonstrates that guard crabs (Trapezia serenei) also ameliorate the strong negative effects of the giant vermetid (Dendropoma maximum) on growth of Pocillopora. This experiment highlights the importance of this crab-coral mutualism: guard crabs facilitate the growth of corals in stressful environments (e.g., where vermetids are abundant), thereby preserving the ecological goods and services (e.g., food and shelter) that these corals may provide to other reef-associated species.


Dendropoma maximum Pocillopora Symbiosis Trapezia 


  1. Colgan MW (1985) Growth rate reduction and modification of a coral colony by a vermetid mollusc Dendrapoma maxima. Proc 5th Int Coral Reef Symp 6:205–210Google Scholar
  2. Davies P (1989) Short-term growth measurements of coral using an accurate buoyant weight technique. Mar Biol 101:289–395Google Scholar
  3. Glynn PW (1976) Some physical and biological determinants of coral community structure in the eastern Pacific. Ecol Monogr 46:431–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Glynn PW (1983) Increased survivorship in corals harboring crustacean symbionts. Mar Biol Lett 4:105–111Google Scholar
  5. Holbrook SJ, Brooks AJ, Schmitt RJ, Stewart HL (2008) Effects of sheltering fish on growth of their host corals. Mar Biol 155:521–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Pratchett MS (2001) Influence of coral symbionts on feeding preferences of crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci in the western Pacific. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 214:111–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Pratchett M, Vytopil E (2000) Coral crabs influence the feeding patterns of crown-of-thorns starfish. Coral Reefs 19:36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Schmitt RJ, Holbrook SJ (2000) Habitat-limited recruitment of a coral reef damselfish. Ecology 81:3479–3494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Schmitt RJ, Holbrook SJ, Brooks AJ, Lape JCP (2009) Intraguild predation in a structured habitat: distinguishing multiple-predator effects from competitor effects. Ecology 90:2434–2443CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Shima JS (2001) Recruitment of a coral reef fish: roles of settlement, habitat, and postsettlement losses. Ecology 82:2190–2199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Shima JS, Osenberg CW, St Mary CM (2008) Quantifying site quality in a heterogeneous landscape: recruitment of a reef fish. Ecology 89:86–94CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Shima JS, Osenberg CW, Stier AC (2010) The vermetid gastropod Dendropoma maximum reduces coral growth and survival. Biol Lett. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0291
  13. Smalley TL (1984) Possible effects of intraspecific competition on the population structure of a solitary vermetid mollusk. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 14:139–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stachowicz JJ, Hay ME (1999) Mutualism and coral persistence: the role of herbivore resistence to algal chemical defense. Ecology 80:2085–2101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Stewart HL, Holbrook SJ, Schmitt RJ, Brooks AJ (2006) Symbiotic crabs maintain coral health by clearing sediments. Coral Reefs 25:609–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Zvuloni A, Armoza-Zvuloni R, Loya Y (2008) Structural deformation of branching corals associated with the vermetid gastropod Dendropoma maxima. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 363:103–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. Stier
    • 1
  • C. S. McKeon
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. W. Osenberg
    • 1
  • J. S. Shima
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Florida Museum of Natural HistoryGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations