Populations living in contaminated environments may exhibit behavioral changes that can alter predator-prey interactions. Blue crabs from the contaminated Hackensack Meadowlands (HM) had reduced ability to capture juvenile blue crabs and adult mummichogs (both active prey) compared with crabs from a reference site (Tuckerton (TK)). However, they consumed equivalent amounts of ribbed mussels and fiddler crabs, which are less active prey. Crabs may have reduced coordination rather than appetite or motivation. The lab data are supported by stomach analysis of field-caught crabs. HM crab stomachs contained ~60% algae, plant material, detritus, and sediment and much lower weights of crab, fish, and other live food than TK crabs. However, the relative absence of bivalves in their diet may reflect reduced amounts available. When TK crabs were caged in HM or fed food from HM in the lab for 8 weeks, their prey capture ability declined significantly, and mercury in their muscle tissue increased significantly, indicating that environmental factors were responsible for the behavioral differences. When HM crabs were caged in TK or fed fish from TK in the lab for 8 weeks, their prey capture ability improved significantly. Mercury levels were variable and did not show a significant decrease.
- Blue crab
- Callinectes sapidus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science