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Social behaviors elevate predation risk in fiddler crabs: quantitative evidence from field observations

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Abstract

The flight initiation distance model predicts that prey initiates to escape at a point where the cost of staying exceeds its benefits that they acquire from staying, such as the availability of food resources and mates. Social behaviors, such as courtship or territorial behaviors can generally increase reproductive success, although they have the potential to attract predators. Using refuge enhances the probability of survival. Therefore, for prey, social behaviors increase the benefits, and the use of refuge decreases the costs of staying. However, most empirical studies testing these predictions have used human approaches as predator mimics and have not represented natural predation events in the field. We quantified predator–prey interactions between the predator, the varunid crab (Helicana japonica), and its prey, the fiddler crab (Austruca lactea), based on field observations. We then demonstrated the effects of social behaviors and distance from a refuge on predation risk and the adjustment of distance according to the predator–prey distance. Fiddler crabs adjusted the prey-prey burrow distances according to the predator–prey distance when it was < 45 cm. When > 45 cm, the prey-prey burrow distances did not influence it. The varunid crabs were shown to target prey that were closer in distance. Predators physically reached prey that were further from their burrows. These results show that predation risk caused prey to regulate prey-prey burrow distances according to predator–prey distances. In addition, varunid crabs frequently contacted fiddler crabs that employed social behaviors, suggesting that social behaviors elevated predation risk.

Significance statement

We quantified predator-prey interactions between the predatory varunid crab and the prey fiddler crab from field observations. We demonstrated that fiddler crabs adjusted their distance from their burrows according to the predator-prey distances. Varunid crabs targeted prey that were closer. Prey that were reached by the predator were situated further away from their burrows and frequently employed social behaviors. These results suggest that the social behaviors of prey elevate predation risk, although prey adjust the distance from the burrow according to the predator-prey distance.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the staff at the Aitsu Marine Station of Kumamoto University for their help with our fieldwork. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. This study was supported by KAKENHI Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (19K06857) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to FT.

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Conceptualization: Fumio Takeshita; Methodology: Fumio Takeshita; Measurement and analysis: Fumio Takeshita, Nozomi Nishiumi; Writing—original draft preparation: Fumio Takeshita; Writing—review and editing: Fumio Takeshita and Nozomi Nishiumi; Funding acquisition: Fumio Takeshita.

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Correspondence to Fumio Takeshita.

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Communicated by T. Breithaupt

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Supplementary Information

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Supplementary file1 (MP4 3779 KB) ESM 1. Rushing tactic for the predatory attack of Helicana japonica. The green and red circles indicate the predator and targeted fiddler crabs, respectively.

Supplementary file2 (CSV 263 KB) ESM 2. Dataset of target and non-target.

Supplementary file3 (CSV 13 KB) ESM 3. Dataset of contact and no contact.

Supplementary file4 (MP4 5356 KB) ESM 4. Sit-and-wait tactic for the predatory attack of Helicana japonica. The green and red circles indicate the predator and targeted fiddler crabs, respectively.

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Takeshita, F., Nishiumi, N. Social behaviors elevate predation risk in fiddler crabs: quantitative evidence from field observations. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 76, 162 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-022-03268-5

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