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Behaviour of juvenile mud crabs Scylla serrata in aquaculture: response to odours of moulting or injured crabs

By D. Wall, B. Paterson, R. Mohan

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Behaviour of juvenile mud crabs, Scylla serrata (70–90 mm carapace width, CW) were observed in response to odours of moulting and injured conspecifics and food (pilchard) under controlled flow conditions using bioassay technique. This study was undertaken to better understand the role that chemical cues have in mediating the attraction of cannibal crabs to moulting crabs in an aquaculture growout facility and thus aid in more successful production. In response to moult odour juvenile S. serrata spent 5.6 ± 1.9% of the time in locomotion but this did not differ significantly (P > 0.05) from that of control odours (seawater, 2.6 ± 1.2%), however a tactile response was observed for moult odour not seen in controls. Juveniles exposed to the odour of injured conspecifics (12.2 ± 2.3% of time in locomotion) and to food (22.7 ± 3.1%) differed significantly from the seawater control (P < 0.05). The possibility that the active agent in moult water is relatively dilute was considered, however varying concentrations of food and crushed conspecific odour failed to demonstrate concentration dependant behavioural results. Variation in the form of size (carapace width) and sex was revealed, so too was preliminary evidence of behavioural differences between crab hatchings. For example, larger crabs (around 80 mm CW) increased tactile investigation of the odour inlet pipe in response to the crab-based odours of moulting (3.5 ± 1.7% of the time) and injured conspecifics (2.6 ± 1.0%), though response to food remained constant over all sizes (∼10.0% of the time). In another experiment, larger female crabs maintained a high frequency of tactile response to the odour of injured conspecifics. In males, the response was attenuated in larger individuals. Despite no differences being found between moult odour and controls some evidence exists to suggest that a small proportion of crabs were responding to the moult odour and that this still has the potential to cause a dramatic cumulative reduction in growout survival. Variation in size and subsequent behaviour of individuals poses the question of whether behaviour contributes to growth rate and might be a focus of genetic selection for more uniform growth.

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 121
Issue 1
Pages 63-73
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.08.005
Language English
Author Address The School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland, Queensland 4072,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Aquacultural and fisheries
  5. Aquatic organisms
  6. Arthropods
  7. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  8. Body weight
  9. Cannibalism
  10. Crustaceans
  11. Fish
  12. Growth rates
  13. Invertebrates
  14. Locomotion
  15. molting
  16. odors
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. performance traits
  19. shellfish
  20. survival
  21. variation
  22. water
  1. peer-reviewed