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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 645:109-124 (2020)  -  DOI:

Spatial overlap, proximity, and interaction between lobsters revealed using acoustic telemetry

Kirsty J. Lees1,2,*, Aileen C. Mill2, Daniel J. Skerritt3, Peter A. Robertson2, Clare Fitzsimmons2

1Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, N9B 3P4, Canada
2School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, NE1 7RU, UK
3Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The cryptic nature of Homarus lobsters has restricted past behavioural studies to aquaria, mesocosms, or shallow coves. As such, spatial overlap and interactions between free-ranging Homarus lobsters have received little attention. However, it is clear that dominance behaviours directly affect their probability of capture, negatively affecting catch and complicating population monitoring. This study describes lobster behaviour at a scale that could not be achieved in aquaria or mesocosms. Home-range overlap and contact rates among free-ranging, acoustically tagged H. gammarus (n = 44) were assessed at multiple spatial scales. Data were analysed as unique pairings of lobsters (dyads), which could be single- or mixed-sex pairings. If home-range overlap between tagged lobsters occurred, interactions between lobsters were classified as attraction or avoidance. The number of times a lobster overlapped with the home range of another lobster was related to the mean substrate hardness within the home range of the focal lobster. Fewer interactions occurred between female lobsters, compared to males and mixed-sex pairings. Interactions between lobsters that occurred at 10 m, and interactions between mixed-sex pairs at 5 m, were identified as attractions. Interactions between male lobsters at 5 m were largely identified as avoidance and may indicate small-scale spatial exclusion. Understanding the drivers of movement and behaviour in wild free-ranging lobster populations is relevant to stock assessments, disease management, protected areas designation, and the development of sustainable evidence-based fisheries.

KEY WORDS: Homarus · Catch-per-unit-effort · Crustacean · Fisheries · Habitat availability · Marine protected areas · Shellfish · Stock assessment

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Cite this article as: Lees KJ, Mill AC, Skerritt DJ, Robertson PA, Fitzsimmons C (2020) Spatial overlap, proximity, and interaction between lobsters revealed using acoustic telemetry. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 645:109-124.

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