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Blue king crab behavior and habitat preference in the presence of competitors and predators

Courtney Lyons

Courtney Lyons at an experimental mesocosm used in predation trials.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Lyons.

Courtney Lyons conducted laboratory experiments with juvenile blue king crabs, in partnership with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center's Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program in Newport, Oregon, for her Ph.D. research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

She used age-0 crabs, approximately 2.5–5.0 mm carapace width, raised at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Kodiak Laboratory. She observed habitat preference by blue and red king crabs that were provided with sand, shell hash, sand with algal mimic, or shell hash with algal mimic, at two temperatures, 2°C and 8°C.

She examined interactions between red and blue king crabs by running the experiment with each species alone and with the two together. Finally, Lyons looked at the efficacy of Pacific halibut predation on juvenile blue king crabs and red king crabs, individually and as mixed assemblages of both species.

Analyses of her data and video behavior are under way. This research will help scientists understand possible mechanisms contributing to the lack of recovery of the depleted Pribilof Island blue king crab stocks, and how these mechanisms might alter in response to climate change.

News Flash is edited by Ben Daly. AKCRRAB is a research and rehabilitation project sponsored by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program, UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, NOAA Fisheries, the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, community groups, and industry members. For more information go to http://seagrant.uaf.edu/research/projects/initiatives/king_crab/general.

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