Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Integrative And Comparative Biology
Shallow coves in Chesapeake Bay have abundant food and serve as nursery grounds for juvenile blue crabs. In this study, we examined the relationships between the diet of very small (4-40 mm CW) juvenile blue crabs and the benthic infauna in shallow, unvegetated nursery coves. We compared infauna in benthic samples with gut contents of juvenile blue crabs from six shallow coves in each of two sub-estuaries (Rappahannock and York Rivers) in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, USA. Benthic communities differed depending on river and location, with abundant clams in upriver regions and abundant polychaetes in downriver regions. Juvenile crabs, like adults, appeared to be opportunistic feeders, with gut contents including clams, amphipods, polychaetes, small crustaceans, plant matter, and detritus. There was a positive relationship between polychaetes in the benthic samples and in crab guts, suggesting that juvenile crabs are opportunistic feeders on polychaetes in the benthos. Moreover, Ivlev's electivity index and foraging ratio showed that clams and polychaetes were selectively eaten at all locations. Alternatively, crabs selectively rejected amphipods. Crab densities corresponded positively with polychaete densities, which suggests that there may be bottom-up control of crab distributions and that food resources are important in nursery habitats.
Density-Dependent Predation; Bottom-Up Control; Seagrass Meadows; Spatial Scales; Top-Down; Abundance; Stock; Interference; Nurseries; Habitats
Seitz, RD; Knick, KE; and Westphal, M, Diet Selectivity of Juvenile Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus) in Chesapeake Bay (2011). Integrative And Comparative Biology, 51(4), 598-607.