Trophic niche separation in sympatric rocky shore crabs

luis.gimenez [ at ]


Where two species occupy the same habitat and similar niches, competition is likely to drive small-scale spatial niche separation or resource partitioning that may not be immediately apparent. A stable isotope approach was used to investigate potential trophic niche separation between co-existing rocky shore crabs in the North-West (NW) Arabian Gulf. Leptodius exaratus and Pilumnopeus convexus which occupy similar shore height on the same rocky intertidal habitats. We also investigated conspecific differences between males vs females and adults vs juveniles. δ15N results indicated that adults of both species occupy a high trophic level in the rocky shore community, suggesting similar functional roles and potential for competition for food resources, while significant differences in δ13C values indicated differences in dietary sources between the two species, and also changes in diet between juveniles and adults in both species. MixSIAR analysis of δ15N and δ13C data confirmed field observations that both species are generalist omnivores, with potential for direct competition including adult predation on juveniles, including conspecifics. Differentiation in isotopic niches (SIBER analysis) was mainly driven by the significant differences in δ13C values, suggesting that co-existence of the two crab species is at least in part mediated by trophic niche separation or dietary resource partitioning, with some (unquantified) potential for spatial resource partitioning at the microhabitat level.

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DOI 10.1017/S0025315419000134

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Al-Wazzan, Z. , Gimenez, L. , Behbehani, M. and Le Vay, L. (2019): Trophic niche separation in sympatric rocky shore crabs , Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 99 , pp. 1171-1180 . doi: 10.1017/S0025315419000134

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