African Journal of Marine Science

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Cannibalistic interactions of juvenile mud crabs Scylla serrata: the effect of shelter and crab size

OD Mirera, PO Moksnes


In the culture of mud crab Scylla serrata, cannibalism is often the greatest cause of mortality. A laboratory study was conducted to compare the influence of size class differences and shelter on cannibalism and limb loss in juvenile mud crabs (20–70 mm internal carapace width; ICW). Four size classes of juvenile crab (A: 21–30 mm, B: 31–40 mm, C: 41–50 mm and D: 51–70 mm ICW) were tested in all possible combinations using four different substrata with varying degree of shelter (seaweed, plastic strings, bamboo tubes and open sand substratum) in 48 h trials. Results suggest that cannibalistic interactions are heavily influenced both by size differences of crabs and the availability of shelter. Cannibalism on the smallest size class (20–30 mm ICW) increased about 10 times in the presence of the largest crab (51–70 mm ICW) compared with treatment with only same-size crabs (control treatment). Shelter provided little refuge for the smallest crabs, whereas cannibalism in larger size classes decreased by >50% in all the shelters compared with the sand substratum. The findings suggest that both size-grading and provision of shelter could minimise cannibalism in the culture of mud crabs.

Keywords: cannibalism, mortality, size combination, size grading, substrata

African Journal of Marine Science 2013, 35(4): 545–553
AJOL African Journals Online