MEPS 386:115-122 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08071

Habitat-based intraguild predation by Caribbean reef octopus Octopus briareus on juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus

Mark J. Butler IV*, Jennifer A. Lear

Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA

ABSTRACT: Intraguild predation occurs when species simultaneously compete for resources and interact as predator and prey, which describes the interaction between juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus and Caribbean reef octopus Octopus briareus in the Florida Keys, USA. Octopuses are notorious predators of decapod crustaceans, and their use of crevice shelters suggests that they may also compete for shelter with their lobster prey. Lobsters use mainly chemical cues to detect and avoid octopus, so we hypothesized that the negative association between these species may be as much the consequence of avoidance of a superior competitor as it is of direct predation. Surveys of lobsters and octopuses occupying artificial shelters at 19 hard-bottom sites confirmed that lobsters do not share dens with octopuses, and also show that lobster and octopus abundances are negatively correlated. Tethering experiments on a subset of those sites revealed that predation on lobster was indeed higher on sites with more octopuses. Results from mesocosm studies indicated that although juvenile lobsters do not attain a size refuge from octopus predation, the presence of alternative prey and lobster conspecifics reduces the risk of predation on lobster by octopus. Mesocosm experiments also showed that octopuses were the competitive dominants when shelter was limited. Thus, the negative association between lobster and octopus in the field appears to be driven by both predation and avoidance of octopus-rich sites by lobsters, rather than competition per se. However, crevice shelters suitable for juvenile lobster are limited in many hard-bottom areas in the Florida Keys, so areas where octopuses are abundant may further limit the local accessibility of shelters for juvenile spiny lobsters even if the direct effects of predation by octopus are minimal.


KEY WORDS: Asymmetrical competition · Shelter limitation · Size refuge · Priority effects


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Cite this article as: Butler MJ IV, Lear JA (2009) Habitat-based intraguild predation by Caribbean reef octopus Octopus briareus on juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 386:115-122

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