Disease avoidance influences shelter use and predation in Caribbean spiny lobster Article

Behringer, DC, Butler, MJ. (2010). Disease avoidance influences shelter use and predation in Caribbean spiny lobster . BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY, 64(5), 747-755. 10.1007/s00265-009-0892-5

cited authors

  • Behringer, DC; Butler, MJ



  • Shelter competition is uncommon among social animals, as is the case among normally gregarious Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus). However, healthy lobsters avoid sheltering with conspecifics infected by a lethal pathogenic virus, PaV1. These contradictory behaviors have implications for shelter use and survival, especially in areas where shelter is limited. In laboratory experiments, we tested shelter competition between paired healthy and diseased juvenile lobsters in shelter-limited mesocosms. Neither healthy nor diseased lobsters dominated access to shelters, but lobsters shared shelter less often when diseased lobsters were present relative to controls with two healthy lobsters. We hypothesized that exclusion of juvenile lobsters from shelter results in increased mortality from predation, especially for the more lethargic, infected individuals. Field tethering trials revealed that predation was indeed higher on infected individuals and on all tethered lobsters deprived of shelter. We then tested in mesocosm experiments how the contrasting risks of predation versus infection by a lethal pathogen influence shelter use. Lobsters were offered a choice of an empty shelter or one containing a diseased lobster in the presence of a predator (i.e., caged octopus) whose presence normally elicits shelter-seeking behavior, and these data were compared with a previous study where the predator was absent. Lobsters selected the empty shelter significantly more often despite the threat of predation, foregoing the protection of group defense in favor of reduced infection risk. These results offer striking evidence of how pathogenic diseases shape not only the behavior of social animals but also their use of shelters and risk of predation. © Springer-Verlag 2009.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010

published in

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 747

end page

  • 755


  • 64


  • 5