Predator Effects of the Invasive Green Crab (Carcinus maenas) and the Native Rock Crab (Cancer irroratus) on Soft-Sediment Macrofauna
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When multiple predators foraging together have different individual consumption rates than predators foraging in isolation, they exhibit non-independent multiple predator effects on prey. I examined multiple predator effects in a system consisting of invasive green crabs (Carcinus maenas L.), native rock crabs (Cancer irroratus Say) and benthic macrofauna prey. First, I examined multiple predator effects when green crabs and rock crabs forage on soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria L.) in different habitat types (sand, sand with artificial seagrass) and assessed the behavioural mechanisms responsible for the observed predation effects. Independent multiple predator effects on prey were detected for most conspecific and heterospecific pairs in both habitat types. In general, crab foraging behaviours were not affected by the presence of another predator. Interactions between predators did not influence foraging behaviours because encounters were infrequent, short in duration and predominantly non-aggressive. A non-independent multiple predator effect on prey (marginally significant) was observed when green crabs foraged with rock crabs in artificial seagrass. This effect, however, could not be explained by the observed crab behaviours. Second, I investigated multiple predator effects when green crabs and rock crabs forage on a soft-sediment macrofauna community. Because crabs did not have significant predation effects on the community throughout the experiment, I did not evaluate multiple predator effects on prey. It is possible that crab predation was not important in regulating the macrofauna community, in which case multiple predator effects were non-existent. Predation may have been suppressed due to a combination of factors, including interactions between predators, harsh environmental conditions or a sub-optimal prey field. Alternatively, my ability to detect significant predation effects may have been hindered because of prey movement in and out of cages or low statistical power. Overall, results from this thesis demonstrate that multiple predator effects on prey may differ with habitat and highlights the importance of conducting behavioural observations to better understand interactions between predators and the resulting consequences for prey. Multiple predator effects on a soft-sediment community should be re-evaluated to assess the importance of these crab species in regulating benthic macrofauna under natural conditions.