Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Research Article

Life history of Allopetrolisthes spinifrons, a crab associate of the sea anemone Phymactis clematis

J.A.  Baeza a1a2 , W.  Stotz a1 and M.  Thiel a1c1
a1 Universidad Católica del Norte, Sede Coquimbo, Departamento de Biología Marina, Larrondo 1281, Coquimbo, Chile
a2 Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Las Cruces, Chile


Allopetrolisthes spinifrons is an ectocommensal crab of the sea anemone Phymactis clematis. The population biology of A. spinifrons in north central Chile was examined between January and December 1996. During 1996, 74% of P. clematis in the rocky intertidal zone hosted at least one commensal crab. In most cases, one sea anemone was inhabited by a single adult crab, either male or female. A few sea anemones hosted two or more crabs, one usually being an adult and the others juveniles or small crabs that just had recruited to the host. The sex ratio of adult crabs was [similar]1:1 during most months. Reproduction occurred with similar intensity throughout the year as indicated by the continuous presence of reproductive females. Similarly, recruitment of A. spinifrons occurred throughout the year with the exception of late winter when no megalopae and small juveniles were found on sea anemones. Fecundity of female crabs varied between 121 and 5661 eggs per female (6·9–19·2 mm carapace length) and was significantly higher during the austral winter (July) than during the summer (December). The fact that most sea anemones were inhabited by a single adult crab indicates that hosts may be monopolized by individual crabs. Resource requirements may prohibit adult crabs from sharing a host individual with another large crab, while adult tolerance towards juveniles may facilitate the maintenance of local populations.

(Received August 29 2000)
(Accepted November 8 2000)

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