Predatory blue crabs induce byssal thread production in hooked mussels

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Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) prey on hooked mussels (Ischadium recurvum) growing epizoically on oyster clumps in estuaries along the Louisiana coast. In prey size-selection experiments, blue crabs preferred small mussels (<30-mm shell length) to larger mussels, possibly because handling time increased with mussel size. When crabs were given a choice of solitary mussels versus mussels in clumps on oysters in the laboratory, mortality was lower by 86% in clumped mussels. However, no size selection by crabs occurred with mussels in clumps, likely because smaller mussels escaped predation in crevices between larger mussels or oysters. When individuals of two size classes of mussels were exposed to water containing the scent of crabs and of mussels consumed by blue crabs, an increase in byssal thread production was induced in all mussels, but byssal thread production rate was higher for small mussels than for large mussels. We conclude that increased predation risk for small mussels has resulted in higher size-specific production of byssal threads, and that predator-induced production of byssal threads, which may increase clumping behavior, may reduce their risk of mortality to predatory blue crabs. © 2011, The American Microscopical Society, Inc.

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Invertebrate Biology

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