MEPS 546:163-171 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11616

Should I stay or should I go? Causes and dynamics of host desertion by a parasitic crab living on echinoids

C. De Bruyn1,2, B. David2,3, S. Motreuil2, G. Caulier4, Q. Jossart1, T. Rigaud2, C. De Ridder1

1Laboratoire de Biologie Marine (CP 160/15), Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), 50 avenue F. D. Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
2Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, 6 boulevard Gabriel, 21000 Dijon, France
3Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, 57 rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
4Laboratoire de Biologie des Organismes Marins et Biomimétisme, Université de Mons, 20, Place du Parc, 7000 Mons, Belgium
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In some long-living symbiotic species, movements between hosts are not limited to offspring since adult parasites can move from one individual host to another one. Host-switching may be driven by different parameters such as (1) mating strategies of symbionts, (2) foraging for resources or (3) avoiding overcrowded or diseased/dead host. Symbiotic marine crustaceans are suitable models to understand what underlies host-switching behavior. In this study, we investigated host desertion by the parasitic pea crab Dissodactylus primitivus associated with the echinoid host Meoma ventricosa. Mark-recapture field experiments, during which crabs were almost always found on their host in heterosexual combinations, suggest that host desertion occurs less frequently when 2 crabs (compared to 3) share the same host. During laboratory experiments with high crab density, the proportion of crabs leaving an echinoid was low when the 2 genders of crabs were present on the host, compared to 1 gender only (males or females). This suggests that host desertion is mostly driven by intersex selection and the search for a mate and, to a lesser extent, by competition between crabs. However, both field and laboratory experiments showed evidence that when they switch host, most crabs remained for a while in the sediment underneath their host. We propose that this behavior, associated with the aggregative behavior of their hosts, would allow the crabs to solve the trade-off between staying on their hosts (therefore suffering overcrowding and sub-optimal mate search) and moving too far from the host (therefore suffering loss of food source and high predation risk).


KEY WORDS: Symbiosis · Mobile invertebrates · Host-switching · Mating systems · Pea crab · Echinoid


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Cite this article as: De Bruyn C, David B, Motreuil S, Caulier G, Jossart Q, Rigaud T, De Ridder C (2016) Should I stay or should I go? Causes and dynamics of host desertion by a parasitic crab living on echinoids. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 546:163-171. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11616

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