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Life history patterns are correlated with predictable fluctuations in highly seasonal environments of semi-terrestrial burrowing crayfish

Abstract

Animals living in extreme environments with predictable seasonality may have important life history events correlated to favourable periods. These animals pass critical life stages in protected habitats, especially during early life, often receiving parental care. It is thus hypothesized that juveniles rely on protective microhabitats provided by their parents, becoming independent only during favourable seasons. Semi-terrestrial crayfish Parastacus pugnax inhabit burrows in highly seasonal and predictable environments, thus being well suited to test this hypothesis. Following marked burrows and individual crayfish we examined the life history patterns of P. pugnax in their natural environment to test the predictions that (i) burrowing activity is higher during the wet season, (ii) reproductive events occur during favourable seasons and (iii) juveniles only disperse after reaching larger sizes. There was little or no burrowing activity during the dry season, when soil was more compact, but burrows became wider and had more openings during the wet season. After hatching, juveniles cohabited with adults for at least 4 months during the dry season. During this period juveniles grew considerably, starting independent lives during the wet season. These results suggest that the prolonged parent-offspring cohabitation evolved in response to the predictable seasonal variations in the crayfish habitat.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for the scholarship to AVP. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for many constructive suggestions, which helped to considerably improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to M. Thiel.

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Handling editor: Lee B. Kats

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Palaoro, A.V., del Valle, E. & Thiel, M. Life history patterns are correlated with predictable fluctuations in highly seasonal environments of semi-terrestrial burrowing crayfish. Hydrobiologia 767, 51–63 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-015-2475-y

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Keywords

  • Behavioural adaptations
  • Fossorial species
  • Parastacus pugnax
  • Parental care
  • Seasonality