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Activity and feeding of Dotilla fenestrata (Brachyura: Ocypodidae) in a warm, temperate South African estuary

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The activity of and consumption of organic material by the sand-bubbler crab Dotilla fenestrata was studied over neap and spring tides on a sheltered sand bank close to the mouth of the warm, temperate Kowie Estuary, South Africa. Crabs emerged from their burrows only after the tide receded, and it was light. Time to emergence therefore varied from about 30 minutes to three hours after exposure, depending on the time of low water in the early morning vs at midday. General activity of the crab population was longer on a spring tide (about five hours) than on a neap tide (about three hours). Maximum densities of active crabs were 140 m–2 and 41 m–2 on spring and neap tides, respectively. After emergence, crabs spent 60% to 80% of their time feeding. In the Kowie Estuary, D. fenestrata produced between 7 and 12 pseudofaecal pellets, average weight 0.0358 g per pellet, per minute. These pellets had a significantly lower organic and chlorophyll a content than the substratum, and it was estimated that crabs removed about 25% of the organic content from the sediment.

Keywords: Crustacea; Kowie Estuary; bioturbation; chlorophyll a; feeding rate

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Zoology and Entomology,Rhodes University, Grahamstown,6140, South Africa

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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