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  • Bruno Welter Giraldes
    Qatar University
  • Mark Chatting
    Qatar University
  • David Smyth
    Queen's University, Belfast
This study presents the first documented observations of a brachyuran crab's proactive fishing behaviour in conjunction with mangrove pneumatophores which are employed as prey-localization devices. All ecological data were recorded in situ using simple behavioural observations, visual census and field experiments. Field experiments were based on stimulus-response and ecological surveys on random displacement. Assemblages of Metopograpsus messor were observed daily performing a foraging/predatory tide-related cyclic behaviour pattern in an arid mangrove ecosystem which experiences challenging environmental conditions. Prey-localizing behaviour was observed during the flood tide when pneumatophore-borne vibrations were used to identify potential prey. The prey simulation field experiment (where a single pneumatophore was stimulated by knocking) showed that in >93% of instances a crab approached the exact pneumatophore being stimulated. As water levels increased during the tidal cycle M. messor was observed climbing pneumatophores. The crabs anchored themselves to the pneumatophore just above the water level with their pereiopods. The chelipeds were positioned in a pincher-like trap, and remained in a ‘capture-position’ waiting for prey to move within striking range. This characteristic fishing behaviour was performed daily by a population of M. messor. Ecological observations suggest that both these predatory behaviours are associated with the fish Aphanius dispar dispar in a direct prey–predator relation. Evidence suggests that these fishing behaviours evolved due to characteristics within the M. messor phylogeny (foraging in intertidal zones; daily displacement following tidal levels; high sensitivity to vibrations; and an opportunist diet) and its associated environment (presence of pneumatophores and high availability of a fish resource).


  • Arabian Gulf, arid ecosystem, behavioural ecology, brachyura, decapod, grapsoid
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1353-1361
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Issue number6
Early online date1 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

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