Research Output
Activity patterns, feeding and burrowing behaviour of the crab Ucides cordatus (Ucididae) in a high intertidal mangrove forest in North Brazil
  Activity patterns, feeding and burrowing behaviour of the economically important semi-terrestrial mangrove crab Ucides cordatus (Ucididae, L. 1763) was studied in a high intertidal Rhizophora mangle forest stand in Bragança, North Brazil. Video observations in the rainy and dry season were conducted over 24 h cycles at different lunar phases to investigate the behaviour of these litter-feeding crabs outside their burrows. During the rainy season, crabs stayed inside their burrows for 79% and 92% of the time during day and night, respectively. Time spent for feeding, burrowing and other activities outside their burrows was significantly longer during the day with 9.9% (night: 1.7%) and at waning and waxing moon with 9% (full and new moon: 0.9%). At neap tides (no tidal inundation) foraging and feeding activities outside burrows were clearly light-dependent, increasing at dawn and decreasing at dusk. Highest activities during daytime relate to the visual localisation of food. During the dry season, crabs spent less time inside burrows at neap tides than during the rainy season (80% and 91%, respectively). However, time spent for feeding activities was similar during both seasons. During almost all observation periods crabs collected leaf litter, but rarely fed on it outside burrows. At neap tides nearly all available litter was collected, suggesting that the U. cordatus population is litter-limited during these times. At spring tides (regular tidal inundation) the surface activity of U. cordatus was tide-dependent. Crabs closed their burrow entrances 2–3 h before flooding and re-emerged as soon as the tide retreated. During the day, burrow maintenance was the second most frequent behaviour after feeding. Agonistic interactions were regularly observed and were mainly related to burrow defence. The mean foraging radius of the crabs was only 19 cm (max: 1 m) underneath high Rhizophora mangle trees where crab densities were high. The results point to a high competition for burrows and show that U. cordatus is territorial. It is concluded that several exogenous factors, in particular light, leaf litter availability, flooding of burrows and the presence of conspecifics are important in controlling the crabs' activity patterns.

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  • Date:

    31 December 2009

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  • Library of Congress:

    QH301 Biology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    570 Life sciences; biology


Nordhaus, I., Diele, K., & Wolff, M. (2009). Activity patterns, feeding and burrowing behaviour of the crab Ucides cordatus (Ucididae) in a high intertidal mangrove forest in North Brazil. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 374, 104-112.



Burrowing behaviour; Competition; Feeding activity; Mangrove crab; Ucides cordatus; Video observation;

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