Journal of Ethology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 263–273 | Cite as

Shelter use during exploratory and escape behaviour of the crab Chasmagnathus granulatus: a field study

  • María del Valle Fathala
  • Héctor Maldonado


The use of shelters has had a predominant adaptive value in many species throughout evolution. Shelters provide protection and reduce the risk of predation during the search for food and mates. However, they imply the additional danger of having the refuge appropriated by an intruder because of intraspecific competition, especially in densely populated communities. In this work we studied the burrow-centred strategies of exploration and the burrow-oriented escape responses of the crab Chasmagnathus granulatus during surface activity outside their burrows. Exploratory excursions were described through diverse characteristics that enabled their functional analysis and categorization. Results showed that surface exploration is mainly accomplished by slow and near-the-burrow excursions that could be composed of two or three stages. Exploratory behaviour is drastically replaced by a conspicuous burrow-oriented escape response when crabs are faced with an aerial stimulus or the approach of a conspecific neighbour. We describe and compare this escape run with regard to whether individual survival or burrow resource is at risk. This study provides evidence of the effect of the crabs’ shelter on surface activity and social interactions in the natural habitat of C. granulatus and supplies valuable tools for field and laboratory studies using this crab as an animal model.


Shelter use Field study Neohelice granulata (=Chasmagnathus granulatusExploratory excursions Conspecific interactions Escape response 



We thank Iribarren L., Kunert M.C., Piriz G., Tedesco M. and Vidal A. for technical assistance in the field. This work was supported by FONCYT (Grant PICTR 00349, PICT-2006-02261), UBACYT (Grant X326) and CONICET (PIP 112-200801-02457 and PIP 2004-5466.

Supplementary material

10164_2010_253_MOESM1_ESM.doc (28 kb)
S1: Mean values of the characteristics of a resident crab’s exploratory excursion with spontaneous return to the burrow. N = 124 excursions (DOC 28 kb)
10164_2010_253_MOESM2_ESM.doc (36 kb)
S2: Mean values of the characteristics describing exploratory excursions composed of three segments (initial, exploration, and return segments) and two segments (initial and return segments). N = 124 excursions. Statistical comparisons between excursions are indicated with S (significant differences) or NS (non-significant differences). For between-segments comparisons, * indicates significant differences between the initial and the return segment, # indicates significant differences between the initial and the exploration segment and ✧ indicates significant differences between the exploration and the return segment. Detailed statistical results in text (DOC 36 kb)
10164_2010_253_MOESM3_ESM.eps (531 kb)
S3: Examples of focal’s and intruder’s instant velocity (upper panel) and distances (lower panel) relationships during the course of the conspecific interactions. Data were recorded at 0.5-s intervals and the escape point is indicated with an arrow. Distances measured were: focal-burrow distance (FB, solid line), intruder-burrow distance (IB, dotted line) and focal-intruder distance (FI, dashed line) (EPS 530 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio de Neurobiología de la Memoria, Departamento de Fisiología y Biología Molecular y Celular, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, IFIBYNE-CONICETUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina

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