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Decreasing water pressure cues ‘bailout’ in seaweed-associated crustaceans

Richard B. Taylor*, Shantanu Patke

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Small mobile crustaceans are abundant on seaweeds. Many rapidly abandon their host if it is detached from the seafloor and floats towards the surface, but the trigger for this ‘bailout’ behaviour is unknown. We tested two potential cues: rapid change in light and rapid change in water pressure, using >1-mm epifauna on the brown seaweed Carpophyllum plumosum as a model system. Bailout occurred in response to reduced water pressure, but not to changing light, as (1) bailout occurred at similar rates in light and dark, (2) bailout occurred on the seafloor when water pressure was reduced within a transparent chamber by the equivalent of ~0.5m depth or more, and (3) little bailout occurred when water pressure was held constant within the chamber while seaweeds were raised to the surface. Increase in pressure (simulating sinking) did not induce bailout. The rate of bailout increased with increasing magnitude of pressure reduction but was not influenced greatly by the rate of change of pressure within the range tested (up to an equivalent of 0.4 m depth s-1). The use of pressure rather than light as a cue for bailout is consistent with the need for seaweed-associated crustaceans to rapidly abandon a detached host and relocate suitable habitat during both day and night.