Date of Award

8-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Childress, Michael J

Committee Member

Ptacek , Margaret B

Committee Member

Bridges Jr. , William C

Committee Member

Bertelsen , Rodney D

Abstract

Variation in juvenile spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) aggressive and gregarious behaviors may play an important role in structuring population level interactions. Since aggressive and gregarious behaviors were not repeatable and were found to be highly correlated with size, these behaviors were found to be largely driven by a combination of behavioral plasticity and ontogeny. Although larger individuals were found to be the most aggressive and least gregarious individuals, often occupying crevice shelters by themselves, they did not exclude smaller, less aggressive lobsters from crevice shelters. Surprisingly, in shelter limited situations, small, less aggressive individuals were more likely to use dens and remain in dens, while large, more aggressive individuals were more likely to remain outside of dens and disperse. In general, larger individuals are able to walk longer distances in less time and are less likely to be preyed upon while away from shelter, suggesting that vulnerability may play an important role in the decision to share dens or disperse. Effects of prior experiences in natural shelter-rich or natural shelter-poor habitats were also found to influence denning behaviors with individuals from natural shelter-poor habitats better responding to sudden shelter loss. Therefore, prior experiences may also play an important role in denning behavior. This thesis provides evidence for behavioral ontogeny and plasticity in juvenile spiny lobster social behavior and is an important first step in understanding the role of individual behavioral variation in shelter competition and behavioral mitigation of habitat loss.

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