Unraveling the feeding dynamics of Chinese mitten crab-based ecosystems using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope techniques

  • Jingyu Huang
  • Eyram NorgbeyEmail author
  • Guang Li
  • Jianhui Wang
  • Michel Rainizafy
  • Philip Nti Nkrumah
  • Georgina Esi Takyi-Annan
Research Article


The Chinese mitten crab (CMC) is an economically important species that consumers prefer mainly because of its delightful taste and aroma. The taste of CMC varies depending on its environmental conditions. Consumers prefer lake-sourced crabs to pond-cultured ones, but the production of crabs in lakes is greatly discouraged because of its adverse impacts on the local ecosystem. This study investigates the dynamics of the food web structure and trophic levels (TL) of both lake and pond ecosystems to apply the knowledge of the lake-cultured system to pond-cultured production using the stable isotope ratios of C and N. Furthermore, the TL was estimated and the IsoSource model was used for diet contribution estimates. The results show that the δ13C of the crab in the pond ecosystem (− 22.6 ± 0.3‰) was more enriched than that in the lake ecosystem (− 25.7 ± 0.4‰) indicating a clear distinction (P < 0.05) which is mainly influenced by their diet. The δ15N of the crab obtained from the lake ecosystem was higher (10.6 ± 0.1‰) than that in the pond ecosystem (8.6 ± 0.2‰), which is indicative of the nutritive value of the lake-culture crabs and consumers’ preference for this type. However, 15N compositions of the lake- and pond-cultured crabs did not differ significantly (P > 0.05), suggesting a similar TL. The crabs also occupied higher TL in both ecosystems under consideration, indicating a reliance of crab on the animal matter for food. This study provides more insights for all concerned stakeholders to make an informed decision with respect to the production and consumption of CMC.


Crabs Pond culture Lake-stocked production Stable isotopes Consumer preference 



The authors are grateful for the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51678272).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

3_2019_1220_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (421 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 420 kb)


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Copyright information

© Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit (BVL) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Integrated Regulation and Resource Development on Shallow Lakes, College of EnvironmentHohai UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.College of EngineeringKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Songliao Aquatic Environment, Ministry of EducationJilin Jianzhu UniversityChangchunChina
  4. 4.Southeast UniversityNanjingChina

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