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Determination of Key Environmental Factors Responsible for Distribution Patterns of Fiddler Crabs in a Tropical Mangrove Ecosystem

In tropical regions, different species of fiddler crabs coexist on the mangrove floor, which sometimes makes it difficult to define species-specific habitat by visual inspection. The aim of this study is to find key environmental parameters which affect the distribution of fiddler crabs and to determine the habitats in which each species was most abundant. Crabs were collected from 19 sites within the mudflats of Sepang-Lukut mangrove forest. Temperature, porewater salinity, organic matter, water content, carbon and nitrogen content, porosity, chlorophyll content, pH, redox potential, sediment texture and heavy metals were determined in each 1 m2quadrate. Pearson correlation indicated that all sediment properties except pH and redox potential were correlated with sediment grain size. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) indicated that Uca paradussumieri was negatively correlated with salinity and redox potential. Sand dwelling species, Uca perplexa and Uca annulipes, were highly dependent on the abundance of 250 μm and 150 μm grain size particles in the sediment. Canonical Discriminative Analysis (CDA) indicated that variation in sediment grain size best explained where each crab species was most abundant. Moreover, U. paradussumieri commonly occupies muddy substrates of low shore, while U. forcipata lives under the shade of mangrove trees. U. annulipes and U. perplexa with the high number of spoon tipped setae on their second maxiliped are specialized to feed on the sandy sediments. U. rosea and U. triangularis are more common on muddy sediment with high sediment density. In conclusion, sediment grain size that influences most sediment properties acts as a main factor responsible for sediment heterogeneity. In this paper, the correlation between fiddler crab species and environmental parameters, as well as the interaction between sediment characteristics, was explained in order to define the important environmental factors in fiddler crab distributions.

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Jan M. Hemmi

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0117467