Crab Weight Watchers: Energy storage and food preferences of ovigerous Hemigrapsus sanguineus and Carcinus maenas

simon.jungblut [ at ]


The intertidal Asian shore crab H. sanguineus was initially found on the French coast in the late 1990’s. It rapidly extended its range further north and is now well established in the German Wadden Sea. Recently, it was also found in western Sweden. In its intertidal habitat, it co-occurs with the European green crab C. maenas. The ecophysiology of H. sanguineus is virtually unknown. In this study, the physiological capacities of both species and their potential for intra-guild competition were investigated. We specifically compared the energy deposition and dietary preferences of ovigerous females of both species. Females of both species carrying immature or mature eggs were collected in April, June, August and October 2015 in an intertidal site on the Island of Helgoland, North Sea, Germany. Total lipid levels of midgut glands and eggs were acquired via extraction. Subsequently, fatty acid compositions were determined through gas chromatography. Total lipid levels of H. sanguineus midgut glands were clearly higher than those of C. maenas (40% vs. 10% dry mass, DM). Immature eggs of both species were quite lipid-rich with 30% and 25%DM, respectively. In mature eggs, lipid levels decreased to ~15%DM each. A Principal Component Analysis of the fatty acid compositions of midgut glands and eggs revealed separate clusters for both species. Lipids of C. maenas were characterized more by membrane fatty acids. Fatty acids of C. maenas midgut glands and eggs clustered together. They were largely dominated by carnivory biomarkers. Contrastingly, fatty acids of midgut glands and all eggs of H. sanguineus formed separate clusters and trophic markers indicated a more herbivorous diet. Higher lipid levels and thus more pronounced energy deposition in H. sanguineus midgut glands indicate higher starvation tolerance for females, a potential competitive advantage over C. maenas. Direct food competition, however, seems negligible, as H. sanguineus prefers a more herbivorous diet than C. maenas. Deviating fatty acid compositions among H. sanguineus midgut glands and eggs suggests that this species may represent an income breeder, utilizing energy from both the midgut gland and dietary input. In contrast, most brachyuran crabs are capital breeders, relying exclusively on internal reserves.

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YOUMARES 7, 11 Sep 2016 - 13 Sep 2016, Hamburg, Germany.
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McCarthy, M. , Jungblut, S. , Saborowski, R. and Hagen, W. (2016): Crab Weight Watchers: Energy storage and food preferences of ovigerous Hemigrapsus sanguineus and Carcinus maenas , YOUMARES 7, Hamburg, Germany, 11 September 2016 - 13 September 2016 .

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