Research Summary: Green Crab (Carcinus maenas) Foraging Efficiency Reduced by Fast Flows
Predators can strongly influence prey populations and the structure and function of ecosystems, but these effects can be modified by environmental stress. For example, fluid velocity and turbulence can alter the impact of predators by limiting their environmental range and altering their foraging ability. We investigated how hydrodynamics affected the foraging behavior of the green crab (Carcinus maenas), which is invading marine habitats throughout the world. High flow velocities are known to reduce green crab predation rates and our study sought to identify the mechanisms by which flow affects green crabs. We performed a series of experiments with green crabs to determine: 1) if their ability to find prey was altered by flow in the field, 2) how flow velocity influenced their foraging efficiency, and 3) how flow velocity affected their handling time of prey. In a field study, we caught significantly fewer crabs in baited traps at sites with fast versus slow flows even though crabs were more abundant in high flow areas. This finding suggests that higher velocity flows impair the ability of green crabs to locate prey. In laboratory flume assays, green crabs foraged less efficiently when flow velocity was increased. Moreover, green crabs required significantly more time to consume prey in high velocity flows. Our data indicate that flow can impose significant chemosensory and physical constraints on green crabs. Hence, hydrodynamics may strongly influence the role that green crabs and other predators play in rocky intertidal communities.