Fight or flight: An investigation of aggressive behavior and predator avoidance in two populations of blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun) in New Jersey

Jessica Marie Reichmuth, James MacDonald, Jonathan Ramirez, Judith S. Weis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Recent literature has suggested aggression may be context dependent. The purpose of this investigation was to examine aggressive and predator avoidance behaviors in juvenile blue crabs of two populations. Furthermore, we wanted to determine whether aggression persisted into the adult stages. Juvenile blue crabs collected from an impacted estuary, the Hackensack Meadowlands (HM), were found to attack a threatening stimulus significantly more often (70%) than conspecifics from a less impacted estuary (Tuckerton-TK). TK juveniles responded significantly more often with a flight (~35%) or mixed response (~30%). Additionally, HM juveniles were significantly more successful than TK juveniles at avoiding an adult blue crab predator when sandy substrate was present in laboratory experiments. However, the video clarity made it impossible to determine which interactions were allowing survival. To determine if "aggression" exhibited by the HM juveniles was the reason for their enhanced survival, follow-up predator avoidance experiments were conducted without substrate and videotaped. The results of these experiments suggest that aggression per se is not the reason since aggressive juveniles were no more successful than non-aggressive individuals. The aggressive behavior exhibited by HM juveniles continues into the adult stages. This behavior may be important to recognize when estimating population size as well as local fishery efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-182
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011



  • Aggression
  • Behavior
  • Blue crab
  • Callinectes sapidus
  • Predator avoidance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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