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Burrowing behavior and burrowing energetics of a bioindicator under human disturbance

Citation

Gul, Mustafa; Griffen, Blaine (2020), Burrowing behavior and burrowing energetics of a bioindicator under human disturbance, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4b8gtht7z

Abstract

Bioindicator species are extensively used for rapid assessment of ecological changes. Their use commonly focuses on changes in population abundance and individual sizes in response to environmental change. These numerical and demographic shifts likely have behavioral and physiological mechanistic drivers that, if understood, could provide additional insights into the use of these species as bioindicators of habitat health. The Atlantic ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata, is a global bio-indicator species of human disturbance on sandy shores. Individual size and population abundance of O. quadrata decline dramatically at sites with human disturbance, and the causes of this phenomenon remain unclear. Here, we test the hypothesis that individual and population-level changes at disturbed sites reflect changes in burrowing behavior and energetics. Specifically, we examine whether or not the burrowing behavior (e.g. burrow fidelity and longevity) of O. quadrata changes because of human disturbance. We also examine energy required for burrowing by O. quadrata across different levels of human disturbance. We show that O. quadrata has the highest burrow fidelity and longevity at sites with low level of human impact, and weakest burrow fidelity and longevity at pristine sites. O. quadrata reduce the burrowing energy allocation by manipulating the burrow dimension and increasing the burrow longevity even under low levels of human disturbance. Overall, this study shows that human disturbances not only change the behavior of organisms, but also shift energetic balance. Our results support the use of a bioenergetic approach to better understand how human disturbances influence natural populations, and the specific use of this approach with this bioindicator species.