MEPS 356:295-298 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07238

Presence of the Jonah crab Cancer borealis significantly reduces kelp consumption by the green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis

Kelly M. McKay*, Kenneth L. Heck Jr.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab, University of South Alabama, 101 Bienville Boulevard, Dauphin Island, Alabama 36528, USA

ABSTRACT: Predators can initiate trophic cascades by reducing densities of their prey, and such density-mediated interactions are well-known in marine environments. Growing amounts of evidence suggest, however, that predator-induced modifications in prey behavior and subsequent effects on lower trophic levels, or trait-mediated interactions, may also be of fundamental importance in marine systems. In laboratory experiments we found that green sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, herbivores whose feeding activities can cause shifts between kelp forests and urchin barrens, significantly decreased kelp grazing rates (on average by nearly 80%) in the presence of the echinivorous Jonah crab Cancer borealis. The Jonah crab and the green urchin co-occur across a wide geographic range and our results suggest that C. borealis has the potential to initiate a trophic cascade by controlling the behavior of urchins, which could have important positive effects on their kelp food resources.


KEY WORDS: Trait-mediated · Indirect interactions · Predation risk · Behavior · Herbivory


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Cite this article as: McKay KM, Heck Jr KL (2008) Presence of the Jonah crab Cancer borealis significantly reduces kelp consumption by the green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 356:295-298

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