Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 579–590 | Cite as

Predators of juvenile sea urchins and the effect of habitat refuges

  • S. ClementeEmail author
  • J. C. Hernández
  • G. Montaño-Moctezuma
  • M. P. Russell
  • T. A. Ebert
Original Paper


We evaluated the effects of potential predators from intertidal habitats on Strongylocentrotus purpuratus survival using laboratory experiments and assessed abundances of main predatory species along the Pacific coast of North America. The interactive effects of urchins’ and predators’ sizes in mediating predation were quantified. Habitat complexity (substrate pits, adult spine canopy) was manipulated to examine its effects on predation of most susceptible individuals (<14 mm). Pachygrapsus crassipes was identified as a major predator of urchins up to ≈30 mm. A positive effect of predator size on consumption of progressively larger urchins was detected, probably due to a mechanical limitation on crabs’ ability to consume large prey. Larger claws of males with respect to females of comparable sizes facilitated the handling of larger prey. Substrate refuges significantly reduced mortality on juvenile urchins. These results show that crab predation may be important in organizing intertidal communities, despite multiple ecological mechanisms promoting sea urchin survival.


Carapace Width Test Diameter Crab Predator Crab Size Spatial Refuge 
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 thank the staff from ‘Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanológicas’ (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California) for providing facilities and maintenance at the flowing seawater laboratory. S.C. benefited from postdoctoral fellowship from ‘Fundación Alfonso Martín Escudero’. The Ocean Science Division Biological Oceanography of the US National Science Foundation supported this study.

Supplementary material

227_2012_2114_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (127 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 127 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Clemente
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • J. C. Hernández
    • 1
    • 4
  • G. Montaño-Moctezuma
    • 2
  • M. P. Russell
    • 1
  • T. A. Ebert
    • 3
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentVillanova UniversityVillanovaUSA
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigaciones OceanológicasUniversidad Autónoma de Baja CaliforniaEnsenadaMexico
  3. 3.Zoology DepartmentOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Biodiversidad, Ecología Marina y Conservación, Departamento de Biología Animal (Ciencias Marinas), Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de La LagunaTenerifeCanary Islands

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