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Efficiency of using emerald crabs Mithraculus sculptus to control bubble alga Ventricaria ventricosa (syn. Valonia ventricosa) in aquaria habitats

  • Joana Figueiredo (a1) (a2), Luís Narciso (a1), Ralph Turingan (a1) and Junda Lin (a2)

Ornamental crabs of the genus Mithraculus (Decapoda: Brachyura: Majidae) are utilized in reef aquaria to control nuisance algae, particularly bubble algae. Although Mithraculus have modified, spooned-shaped chelae to feed on both fleshy and filamentous algae, they may consume alternative foods offered in a reef aquarium. The objective of this study was to determine the efficiency of using Mithraculus sculptus to control the bubble alga Ventricaria ventricosa (Siphonocladales–Cladophorales complex, Chlorophyta) in the presence of alternative foods (commercial pellets and frozen mysids) commonly utilized in reef aquaria. Results indicated that medium and large sized crabs consumed more bubble algae than smaller conspecifics. Although, M. sculptus first chose alternative foods to bubble alga (77% and 69% of the time chose pellets and frozen mysids, respectively), algal consumption only decreased significantly if, besides algae, pellets were provided; when only algae were provided, algal consumption was similar to when they were provided with mysids. The prey choice model was used as a conceptual framework to study the mechanisms underlying active selection; food energy content and handling time were measured and food profitability was calculated. Handling time decreased with increasing crab size. Pellets presented a higher profitability than algae but mysids and algae presented similar profitability; this seems to be in agreement with the observed reduced algal consumption when pellets made part of the diet. Mithraculus sculptus feeding behaviour on V. ventricosa recorded with digital high-speed video (DHSV) suggests that as the crab tears the algal cell apart, the cell liquid that contains juvenile cytoplasmatic spheres is released into the water; this behaviour might contribute to algal dispersal and consequently algal infestation. These results seem to indicate that M. sculptus might not be such an efficient bio-controller of the pest V. ventricosa as previously thought, particularly when pellets are used as food; however, its bio-control efficiency might be improved if, mysids are used as food.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed: Joana Figueiredo Laboratório Marítimo da Guia–IMAR Departamento de Biologia Animal Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Forte N. S. da Guia, Estrada do Guincho 2750-374 Cascais Portugal email:
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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
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