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Preventing home invasions means fighting side-by-side for coral-dwelling crabs and shrimp
Date:3/30/2012

some coral heads may have as many as five different species of defensive crustaceans living on them, all pairs of different species.

In repeated experiments McKeon and colleagues measured the effectiveness of a single crab pair in preventing a seastar from eating their home coral. He found that one pair of crabs reduced the volume of coral eaten by about 19 percent, compared to a coral with no defenders. Two pairs of crustaceans working together, however, were able to reduce the volume of coral eaten by as much as 65 percentthe multiple defender effect.

The take-home lesson here, McKeon says, "is these crabs don't allow others of their same species on their coral, yet the synergy of different pairs fighting together is critical to the defense of the coral. The multiple defender effect is an important new angle on why we must conserve biodiversity in the ocean."

"Multiple defender effects: synergistic coral defense by mutualist crustaceans," by C. Seabird McKeon; Adrian C. Stier of the University of Florida; Shelby McIlroy of the University at Buffalo and Banjamin Bolker of McMaster University; appeared recently in the scientific journal Oecologia.


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Contact: Kelly Carnes
carnesk@si.edu
Smithsonian
Source:Eurekalert  

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