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Keywords:

  • Brachyaran crab;
  • burying behaviour;
  • circadian rhythms;
  • continental slope;
  • crustaceans;
  • deep-sea;
  • galatheid crabs;
  • light intensity;
  • Liocarcinus depurator;
  • Munida intermedia;
  • Munida tenuimana;
  • nocturnal;
  • shelf diurnal

Abstract

The regulation and expression of biological rhythms with respect to sex and ontogeny in deep-water benthic decapod crustaceans constitutes an exciting field in marine biology that is far from understood. Liocarcinus depurator, Munida intermedia and Munida tenuimana are ecologically key crustacean decapod species of the Atlantic and Mediterranean shelves and slopes, and their activity rhythms in the field are poorly known. Our aim was to measure the behavioural rhythms of these species, while at the same time defining their type of displacement (i.e. endobenthic, nektobenthic or benthopelagic). Whether gender and ontogeny modulate the rhythmic behaviour of these decapods is unknown, and we sought to clarify this issue. A temporally scheduled series of trawl hauls and light intensity measures was performed on the western Mediterranean shelf (100–110 m depth) and slope (400–430 m), close to the autumn equinox and the summer solstice. The sex and the size of animals in the catches were analysed. Catch patterns were evaluated through waveform and periodogram analyses. Liocarcinus depurator was captured at night on the shelf, whereas on the slope, animals displayed peaks both in the middle of the day and night. Size-related differences (but no gender differences) were found in its rhythmic behaviour, possibly due to intra-specific competition (e.g. fighting) between juveniles and adults. Munida intermedia were weakly diurnal in October and both diurnal and nocturnal in June. Munida tenuimana presented no discernible rhythmicity in October, but was nocturnal in June. Both species showed no evident sex or size modulation of their behaviour. Data were interpreted assuming that all tested species present an endobenthic behaviour (i.e. animals emerge from the substrate during the active phase of their behavioural cycle).