Zoological Studies

Vol. 60, 2021

(update: 2021.05.10; 07.12)

Plasticity of Foraging Strategies Adopted by the Painted Ghost Crab, Ocypode gaudichaudii, in Response to in situ Food Resource Manipulation Experiments

Adeline Y.P. Yong1 and Shirley S.L. Lim1,*


1Ecology Lab, Natural Sciences and Science Education, NIE, Nanyang Technological University, 1 Nanyang Walk, Singapore 637616, Republic of Singapore. *Correspondence: E-mail: shirley.lim@nie.edu.sg; shirley.limsl@ntu.edu.sg (Lim)
E-mail: ADELINE-YONG@e.ntu.edu.sg (Yong)

Received 28 February 2021 / Accepted 19 April 2021
Communicated by Benny K.K. Chan

The feeding strategies of Ocypode gaudichaudii at two sandy beaches, Culebra Beach (CB) and Playa Venao (PV) in Panama, were studied via three experiments. Two separate manipulative in situ experiments were conducted to determine how the densities of food resources and the size of the supplemented food offered to the crabs can affect their diet and food handling behavior. The third experiment, a transplantation study, was also conducted to determine the plasticity of the feeding behavior of the displaced crabs. In the first experiment, freshly-emerged crabs showed different feeding modes when washed-sediment was seeded with different densities of diatoms and rove beetles, which suggests that they are optimal foragers. Crabs hoarded food in the second experiment when food augmentation was performed, in which small and large food pellets were placed around the burrows at the beginning and end of the crabs’ feeding cycle. All freshly-emerged crabs from both sites foraged on the small pellets outside their burrows and did not cache food; when pellets were provided at the end of the feeding cycle, crabs from CB fed on some of the small pellets and returned to their burrows with the uneaten pellets left on the surface, whereas crabs at PV picked up all the small food pellets and transferred them into their burrows over several trips before plugging their burrow  entrances. Only the crabs from PV carried the large food pellets supplemented at the start and end of the feeding cycle into their burrows. In contrast, the crabs at CB often left behind the partially-eaten pellets on the sand surface, probably due to the increased risk of predation associated with the prolonged handling time of the large food pellets. Excavation of the burrows of the crabs that hoarded food showed that all the pellets were deposited at the bend of the burrows, indicating that they were not consumed immediately. Crabs that fed in droves at PV stopped droving and foraged around their burrows after being transplanted to CB. This is the first documentation of food hoarding in a sandy beach macroinvertebrate at a resource-impoverished habitat. The plasticity of feeding strategies adopted by the painted ghost crab in response to different densities of food resources in the habitat could be an adaptation to the dynamic sandy beach environment.

Key words: Food caching, Functional response, Opportunistic scavenger, Optimal Foraging Theory, Transplantation experiment.

Citation: Yong AYP, Lim SSL. 2021. Plasticity of foraging strategies adopted by the painted ghost crab, Ocypode gaudichaudii, in response to in situ food resource manipulation experiments. Zool Stud 60:37. doi:10.6620/ZS.2021.60-37.

Supplementary Materials: Video S1 | Video S2