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Differential coloration patterns in the intertidal crab Neohelice (=Chasmagnathus) granulata

  • Agustina Méndez Casariego (a1) (a2), Tomás Luppi (a1) (a2) and Oscar Iribarne (a1) (a2)

Abstract

Many crustaceans with spatial segregation may present differential body coloration depending on the habitat they inhabit. Since crustaceans are unable to synthesize carotenoids, individuals must acquire them from their diet, so diet changes can modify individual coloration. The burrowing crab Neohelice (=Chasmagnathus) granulata inhabits the intertidal, from the uppermost parts of salt marshes to the lowest mudflat zones with a spatial segregation of different size-classes. They are primarily deposit feeders in mud flats and herbivorous–detritivorous in the salt marsh. We analysed the effect of intermoult length on the carapace colour of N. granulata, and the changes in carapace colour with crab size and zone. Crab colour varied between unvegetated and vegetated areas. Some of these differences were in part caused by colour changes related to crab size. Larger crabs show less intensive colours, and given that they inhabit the upper part of the intertidal a differential coloration pattern occurred between zones. In field experiments intermoult duration affected crab colour and some body regions analysed showed differences between zones unrelated to size.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: A.M. Casariego, Departamento de Biología (FCEyN), Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, CC 573 Correo Central, B7600WAG, Mar del Plata, Argentina email: mendezc@mdp.edu.ar

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