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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 664:133-148 (2021)  -  DOI:

Effects of dead conspecifics, hunger states, and seasons on the foraging behavior of the purple urchin Heliocidaris crassispina

Dominic Franco C. Belleza1, Yuuki Kawabata1, Tatsuki Toda2, Gregory N. Nishihara3,*

1Graduate School of Fisheries and Environmental Science, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki 852-8521, Japan
2Faculty of Science and Engineering, Soka University, Tokyo 192-8577, Japan
3Organization for Marine Science and Technology, Institute for East China Sea Research, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki 851-2213, Japan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Trophic cascades are a powerful result of predator-prey relationships in an ecosystem. In aquatic environments, the signals associated with predators and predation are used by prey as a cue to avoid encountering predators when foraging for food. These behavioral cues can be powerful enough to control prey populations and indirectly protect primary producers. Here, we evaluated the effects of cues associated with predation on the purple urchin Heliocidaris crassispina and examined effects of hunger state and season, using time-lapse photography. A series of laboratory and in situ manipulative experiments were conducted to determine patterns of foraging behavior and behavioral modifications. We showed that starved urchins were less sensitive to predation cues compared to normally fed urchins. Field experiments indicated that 70% of fed urchins fled when exposed to a predation cue (presence of a dead urchin) whereas starved urchins remained regardless of the cue, supporting results from the laboratory using dead urchin and algal cues. Sea urchin activity and feeding rates were lower in winter-spring than in summer-autumn. Results suggest that hunger state has a large influence over the behavioral response of sea urchins, while also being affected by season due to metabolic control. In general, starvation appears to override predator avoidance behaviors, which exposes prey species to higher risks of predation.

KEY WORDS: Top-down control · Trophic cascade · Behavior modification

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Cite this article as: Belleza DFC, Kawabata Y, Toda T, Nishihara GN (2021) Effects of dead conspecifics, hunger states, and seasons on the foraging behavior of the purple urchin Heliocidaris crassispina. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 664:133-148.

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