Changes in temperature, pH, and salinity affect the sheltering responses of Caribbean spiny lobsters to chemosensory cues

Florida Bay is home to a network of shallow mud-banks which act as barriers to circulation creating small basins that are often subject to extremes in temperature and salinity. Florida bay is also important juvenile habitat for the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus. While our understanding of the effect of environmental changes on the survival, growth, and movement of spiny lobsters is growing, the effect on their chemosensory abilities has not yet been investigated. Lobsters rely heavily on chemical cues for many biological and ecological activities, and here we report on the effect of extreme environmental events in temperature (32 °C), salinity (45ppt), and pH (7.65 pH) on social behavior and sheltering preference in P. argus. Under normal conditions, chemical cues from conspecifics are used by spiny lobsters to identify suitable shelter and cues from stone crabs and diseased individuals are used to determine shelters to be avoided. In all altered conditions, lobsters lost the ability to aggregate with conspecifics and avoid stone crabs and diseased conspecifics. Thus, seasonal extreme events, and potentially future climate change conditions, alter the chemosensory-driven behavior of P. argus and may result in decreased survivorship due to impaired shelter selection or other behaviors.

Ross E. & Behringer D., 2019. Changes in temperature, pH, and salinity affect the sheltering responses of Caribbean spiny lobsters to chemosensory cues. Scientific Reports 9: 4375. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40832-y. Article.

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