We conducted laboratory experiments and field manipulations to evaluate the extent to which ontogenetic and certain environmental conditions interact to alter the behavior of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters following settlement. In addition we evaluated whether particular behavioral
changes could increase a juvenile's chance of survival. We tested the effects of time of day, season, developmental stage and the presence of conspecifics on the activity state and sheltering behavior of lobsters. We also estimated relative predation rates by tethering lobsters under five
types of shelter during summer and late fall. Algal phase lobsters (8–12 mm carapace length) were more active at night and foraged more and walked less in summer than in the late fall. Post-algal phase lobsters (24–28 mm CL) were more active when in the presence of conspecifics.
Predation rates in all seasons were highest for lobsters without cover and lowest while in algal cover. The proportion of algal juveniles found walking during their active period changed with the seasons and significantly fewer individuals foraged in late fall than in summer. Variation in
the behavior of post-algal lobsters may reflect the niche shift from full-time algal dwelling to diurnal crevice sheltering yet the difference in predation risk between algal sheltering and crevice sheltering is not sufficient to explain the size at which this transition should occur. Shifting
from algae to crevices could potentially produce a population bottleneck for lobsters in areas devoid of appropriate structure. This may be especially important for evaluating the impact of recent widespread shelter loss by sponge die-off in the Florida Bay lobster nursery.
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