Does ‘You Are What You Eat ’ Apply to Mangrove Grapsid Crabs?

Abstract

In tropical mangroves, brachyuran crabs have been observed to consume high percentages of leaf litter production. However, questions concerning their ability to assimilate this low-quality food remain, as stable isotope analysis of C and N does not seem to support assimilation. Individuals of the common eastern Australian mangrove grapsid Parasesarma erythodactyla feeding on a mangrove leaf litter or mangrove+microphytobenthos diet developed a significantly higher hepatosomatic index than those with access to only sediment. Lipid biomarker analysis and feeding experiments using 13C and 15N-enriched mangrove leaf litter confirmed rapid assimilation of mangrove C and N by P. erythodactyla. Eight-week feeding experiments utilizing three food types (mangrove leaf litter, microphytobenthos and prawn muscle) established different food-specific trophic discrimination values (Dd13C and Dd15N) that are significantly different from those commonly applied to mixing model calculations. The mean Dd13C(crab-mangrove) of +5.45 % was close to the mean and median literature values for grapsid-mangrove pairs in 29 past studies (+5.261.8 % and +5.6%, respectively), suggesting that this large discrimination may generally be characteristic of detritivorous grapsid crabs. Solutions from the IsoConc mixing model using our determined trophic discrimination values suggest significantly higher and dominant contributions of mangrove C to the diet than those based on the global mean trophic discrimination values. Our results reaffirm the physiological capacity for and important mediating role of grapsid crabs in processing low-quality mangrove C in tropical estuaries, an

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