Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Randolph Chambers

Committee Members

Doug DeBerry

Romuald Lipcius


The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) is ecologically and economically important in Chesapeake Bay. Nursery habitats, such as seagrass beds, disproportionately contribute individuals to the adult segment of populations. Spartina alterniflora salt marshes are intertidal nursery habitats which may serve as a refuge from predation for juvenile blue crabs. However, the effects of various characteristics of salt marshes on nursery metrics, such as survival, have not been quantified. Comparisons of juvenile survival between salt marshes and other habitats often employ tethering to assess survival. Although experimental bias when tethering juvenile prey is well recognized, the potential for habitat-specific bias in salt marshes has not been experimentally tested. Using short-term mesocosm predation experiments, we tested if tethering in simulated salt marsh habitats produces a habitat-specific bias. Juvenile crabs were randomly tethered and un-tethered in mesocosms at varying simulated shoot densities. Tethering reduced survival, and its effect was not habitat specific, irrespective of shoot density, as evidenced by a non-significant interaction effect between tethering treatment and habitat. Thus, tethering juvenile blue crabs in salt marsh habitat did not produce treatment-specific bias relative to unvegetated habitat across a range of shoot densities and survival of tethered and untethered crabs was positively related to shoot density. These findings indicate that tethering is a useful method for assessing survival in salt marshes, as with other nursery habitats including seagrass beds, algae and unstructured sand.

On-Campus Access Only