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PeerJ. 2016 Aug 2;4:e2244. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2244. eCollection 2016.

Decoupling the response of an estuarine shrimp to architectural components of habitat structure.

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Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Imperial Beach, CA, United States; Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Tiburon, California, United States.
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center , Tiburon, California , United States.
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center , Edgewater, Maryland , United States.


In order to explore biotic attraction to structure, we examined how the amount and arrangement of artificial biotic stalks affected responses of a shrimp, Palaemon macrodactylus, absent other proximate factors such as predation or interspecific competition. In aquaria, we tested the effect of differing densities of both un-branched and branched stalks, where the amount of material in the branched stalk equaled four-times that of the un-branched. The results clearly showed that it was the amount of material, not how it was arranged, that elicited responses from shrimp. Also, although stalks were not purposefully designed to mimic structural elements found in nature, they did resemble biogenic structure such as hydroids, algae, or plants. In order to test shrimp attraction to a different, perhaps more unfamiliar habitat type, we examined responses to plastic "army men." These structural elements elicited similar attraction of shrimp, and, in general, shrimp response correlated well with the fractal dimension of both stalks and army men. Overall, these results indicate that attraction to physical structure, regardless of its nature, may be an important driver of high abundances often associated with complex habitats.


Behavioral attraction; Habitat complexity; Palaemon macrodactylus; Structure

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