The role of abiotic and biotic cues in burrow habitat selection by juvenile crayfish

in Behaviour
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Environmental cues contain critical information for individuals while searching for mates and suitable habitat. Crayfish have well-developed chemosensory abilities for detecting environmental cues in water; much less is known about these abilities on land. The Devil crayfish (Cambarus diogenes) is a burrowing crayfish often found in dense floodplain colonies as adults. Juveniles however are released in surface water and must navigate overland to burrow. Previous work demonstrates juveniles use cues from conspecific adults, and to a lesser extent, soil cues, for burrow site selection. Using mesocosms, we build on this by examining burrowing cues associated with (1) congeneric adults, (2) excavated burrow material and (3) other juveniles. In contrast to conspecific adults, cues provided by congeneric adults did not override cues associated with soil type. Similarly, juveniles burrowed closer to conspecific adult burrow mounds than to congeneric and human-built mounds. Juveniles also showed significant grouping behaviour in the absence of all other cues. These results suggest juvenile crayfish integrate multiple terrestrial cues for burrow site selection.



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  • A schematic and photograph of an artificial burrowing chamber (ABC) used to manipulate soil preferences and congeneric cues. Arrows in schematic denote water flow. The ABC was constructed of acrylic, was 30 cm H × 46 cm L × 5 cm W and filled with streamside soil on one side and floodplain soil on the other. Adult crayfish were constrained to burrow in one soil treatment, and juveniles were placed on soil midline and allowed to burrow.

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  • Artificial burrow and mound layout in mesocosm experiments. Mesocosms were divided into sections (highlighted in white), each containing a treatment mound (C. diogenes, C. striatus, or human-built). Treatment mounds were arranged as similarly as possible. White markers indicate location of juveniles (burrowed or on surface) when cover removed.

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  • Mean number (+ SE) of juveniles per mesocosm section containing different chimney treatments. Top panel refer to all individuals (burrowed + surface), whereas bottom panel is mean number of juveniles that burrowed only. Letters above bars denote significant difference according to a post-hoc Tukey’s test.

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