Feeding and non-feeding aggression can be induced in invasive shore crabs by altering food distribution

Tanner C. J., Salalt G. D., Jackson A. L.

BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY, vol.65, no.2, pp.249-256, 2011 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 65 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00265-010-1033-x
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.249-256
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Human activity can have a large impact on surrounding ecosystems. For example, humans alter resource distributions for other species, potentially modifying these species competitive dynamics. These changes in local competitive processes are frequently associated with species invasions. Here, we investigate how differences in resource distribution affect competitive behaviour using the highly invasive European shore crab (Carcinus maenas). Using a controlled laboratory experiment in combination with behaviour assays and social network analysis, we show that individuals feeding in habitats with clumped food distributions are more aggressive than individuals feeding in habitats where food is evenly dispersed, and this aggression is present even on days where crabs are not feeding. Additionally, this persistent aggression can be induced, suggesting that individuals of this invasive species possess the flexibility to modify their competitive behaviours in response to differences in food distributions. Furthermore, we show how these individual responses can lead to changes in overall organisation of aggressive interactions within a population. We discuss these results in relation to how human impacts can have long-term effects on competitive behavioural strategies, and how behavioural flexibility can allow invasive species to colonise and persist in highly impacted sites such as urban ecosystems.