No compromise between metabolism and behavior of decorator crabs in reduced pH conditions

Many marine calcifiers experience metabolic costs when exposed to experimental ocean acidification conditions, potentially limiting the energy available to support regulatory processes and behaviors. Decorator crabs expend energy on decoration camouflage and may face acute trade-offs under environmental stress. We hypothesized that under reduced pH conditions, decorator crabs will be energy limited and allocate energy towards growth and calcification at the expense of decoration behavior. Decorator crabs, Pelia tumida, were exposed to ambient (8.01) and reduced (7.74) pH conditions for five weeks. Half of the animals in each treatment were given sponge to decorate with. Animals were analyzed for changes in body mass, exoskeleton mineral content (Ca and Mg), organic content (a proxy for metabolism), and decoration behavior (sponge mass and percent cover). Overall, decorator crabs showed no signs of energy limitation under reduced pH conditions. Exoskeleton mineral content, body mass, and organic content of crabs remained the same across pH and decoration treatments, with no effect of reduced pH on decoration behavior. Despite being a relatively inactive, osmoconforming species, Pelia tumida is able to maintain multiple regulatory processes and behavior when exposed to environmental pH stress, which underscores the complexity of responses within Crustacea to ocean acidification conditions.

Rankin A., Seo K., Graeve O. A. & Taylor J. R. A., 2019. No compromise between metabolism and behavior of decorator crabs in reduced pH conditions. Scientific Reports 9: 6262. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-42696-8. Article.

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