Scientia Marina, Vol 80, No 1 (2016)

Consistent habitat segregation between sexes in the spider crabs Maja brachydactyla and Maja squinado (Brachyura), as revealed by stable isotopes

Guillermo Guerao , Spain

Guiomar Rotllant
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC , Spain

Enric Gisbert
IRTA, Cultius Aquàtics , Spain

Marc Uyà
Departament de Biologia Animal and Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Faculty of Biologia, University of Barcelona , Spain

Luís Cardona
Departament de Biologia Animal and Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Faculty of Biologia, University of Barcelona , Spain


Differences in the resource use patterns of males and females of the spider crab species Maja brachydactyla Balss, 1922 and M. squinado (Herbst, 1788) from several geographic areas (three in the Atlantic and two in the Mediterranean) were studied through the analysis of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the exoskeleton of post-pubertal (adult) specimens. Results confirmed that males and females from the same population usually did not differ in δ15N values and hence foraged at the same trophic level. In contrast, females were usually enriched in 13C as compared with males from the same population, thus suggesting that females use shallower habitats than males before the terminal moult. The results reported here also indicate that stable isotop.


Maja brachydactyla; Maja squinado; stable isotopes; trophic level; sexual segregation; traceability

Full Text:



Abelló P. 1989. Feeding habits of Macropipus tuberculatus (Brachyura, Portunidae) off the Catalan coast (NW Mediterranean). Misc. Zool. 13: 45-50.

Abelló P., Cartes J. 1987. Observaciones sobre la alimentación de Liocarcinus depurator (L.) (Brachyura: Portunidae) en el Mar Catalán. Invest. Pesq. 51(Supl. 1): 413-419.

Abelló P., Guerao G., Salmerón F., et al. 2014. Maja brachydactyla (Brachyura: Majidae) in the western Mediterranean. Mar. Biodivers. Rec. 7: 1-5.

Bennett D.B., Brown C.G. 1983. Crab (Cancer pagurus) migrations in the English Channel. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 63: 371-398.

Bernárdez C., Freire J., González-Gurriarán E. 2000. Feeding of the spider crab Maja squinado in rocky subtidal areas of the Ría de Arousa (north-west Spain). J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 80: 95-102.

Bligh E.G., Dyer W.J. 1959. A rapid method of total lipid extraction and purification. Can. J, Biochem. Phys. 37: 911-917.

Bodin N., Le Loc'h F., Hily C., et al. 2007. Variability of stable isotope signatures (?13C and ?15N) in two spider crab populations (Maja brachydactyla) in Western Europe. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 343: 149-157.

Borrell A., Aguilar A., Tornero V., et al. 2006. Organochlorine compounds and stable isotopes indicate bottlenose dolphin subpopulation structure around the Iberian Peninsula. Environ. Int. 32: 516-523. PMid:16445982

Bosc E., Bricaud A., Antoine D. 2004. Seasonal and interannual variability in algal biomass and primary production in the Mediterranean Sea, as derived from 4 years of SeaWiFS observations. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 18: GB1005.

Bunn S.E., Loneragan N.R., Kempster M.A. 1995. Effects of acid washing on stable isotope ratios of C and N in penaeid shrimp and seagrass: implications for food-web studies using multiple stable isotopes. Limnol. Oceanogr. 40: 622-625.

Cardona L., Revelles M., Sales M., et al. 2007. Meadows of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica are a significant source of organic matter for adjoining ecosystems. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 335: 123-131.

Cherel Y., Hobson K.A. 2005. Stable isotopes, beaks, and predators: a new tool to study the trophic ecology of cephalopods, including giant and colossal squids. Proc. R. Soc. B 272: 1601-1607. PMid:16048776 PMCid:PMC1559839

Choy C. 1986. Natural diet and feeding habits of the crabs Liocarcinus puber and L. holsatus (Decapoda, Brachyura, Portunidae). Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 31: 87-99.

Corgos A., Sampedro M.P., González-Gurriarán E., et al. 2007. Growth at moult, intermoult period and moulting seasonality of the spider crab Maja brachydactyla: combining information from mark-recapture and experimental studies. J. Crust. Biol. 27: 255-262.

De Kergariou G. 1971. L'araignée de mer, Maia squinado L., sur le littoral de Bretagne. Science et Pêche, Bulletin d'Institute des Pêches maritimes 205: 11-19.

De Kergariou G. 1974. Régime alimentaire de Maja squinado. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea 1974/K, 36, 6 pp.

De Kergariou G. 1984. L'araignée de mer, H. Biologie et exploitation. La Pêche maritime 1279: 575-583.

Drago M., Cardona L., Crespo E.A., et al. 2009. Ontogenic dietary changes in South American sea lions. J. Zool. 279: 251-261.

Eder E., Ceballos A., Martins S., et al. 2012. Foraging dichotomy in loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta off northwestern Africa. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 470: 113-122.

Fahy E., Carroll J. 2009. Vulnerability of male spider crab Maja brachydactyla (Brachyura: Majidae) to a pot fishery in south-west Ireland. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 89: 1353-1366.

Freire J., Bernárdez C., Corgos A., et al. 2002. Management strategies for sustainable invertebrate fisheries in coastal ecosystems of Galicia (NW Spain). Aquat. Ecol. 36: 41-50.

Freire J., Carabel S., Verísimo P., et al. 2009. Patterns of juvenile habitat use by the spider crab Maja brachydactyla as revealed by stable isotope analyses. Sci. Mar. 73: 39-49.

Giménez J., Gómez-Campos E., Borrell A., et al. 2013. Isotopic evidence of limited exchange between Mediterranean and eastern North Atlantic fin whales. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 27: 1801-1806. PMid:23821574

Gómez-Díaz E., González-Solís J. 2007. Geographic assignment of sea birds to their origin: combining morphologic, genetics, and biochemical analyses. Ecol. Appl. 17: 1484-1498. PMid:17708223

González-Gurriarán E., Freire J. 1994. Movement patterns and habitat utilization in the spider crab Maja squinado (Herbst) (Decapoda, Majidae) measured by ultrasonic telemetry. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 184: 269-291.

González-Gurriarán E., Freire J., Parapar J., et al. 1995. Growth at moult and moulting seasonality of the spider crab, Maja squinado (Herbst) (Decapoda: Majidae) in experimental conditions: implications for juvenile life history. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 189: 183-203.

González-Gurriarán E., Freire J., Bernárdez C. 2002. Migratory patterns of female spider crabs Maja squinado detected using electronic tags and telemetry. J. Crust. Biol. 22: 91-97.

Graham B.S., Koch P.L., Newsome S.D., et al. 2010. Using isoscapes to trace the movements and foraging behavior of top predators in oceanic ecosystems. In: West J.B., Bowen G.J., Dawson T.E., et al. (eds), Isoscapes: Understanding Movement, Pattern and Process on Earth Through Isotope Mapping. Springer, New York, pp. 299-318.

Guerao G., Rotllant G. 2010. Development and growth of the early juveniles of the spider crab Maja squinado (Brachyura: Majoidea) in an individual culture system. Aquaculture 307: 105-110.

Guerao G., Andree K.B., Froglia C., et al. 2011. Identification of european species of Maja (Decapoda, Brachyura, Majidae): RFLP analyses of COI mtDNA and morphological considerations. Sci. Mar. 75: 129-134.

Hines A.H., Lipcius R.N., Haddon A.M. 1987. Population dynamics and habitat partitioning by size, sex, and molt stage of blue crabs Callinectes sapidus in a subestuary of central Chesapeake Bay. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 36: 55-64.

Hines A.H., Wolcott T.G., González-Gurriarán E., et al. 1995. Movement Patterns and Migrations in Crabs: Telemetry of Juvenile and Adult Behaviour in Callinectes sapidus and Maja squinado. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 75: 27-42.

Hirons A., Schell D.M., St Aubin D.J. 2001. Growth rates of vibrissae of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Can. J. Zool. 79: 1053-1061.

Hobson K.A. 1999. Tracing origins and migration of wildlife using stable isotopes: a review. Oecologia 120: 314-326.

Hobson K.A., Wassena L.I., Taylo O.R. 1999. Stable isotopes (?D and ?13C) are geographic indicators of natal origins of monarch butterflies in eastern North America. Oecologia 120: 397-404.

Jackson A.L., Parnell A.C., Inger R., et al. 2011. Comparing isotopic niche widths among and within communities: SIBER - Stable Isotope Bayesian Ellipses in R. J. Anim. Ecol. 80: 595-602. PMid:21401589

Koch P.L. 2008. Isotopic Study of the Biology of Modern and Fossil Vertebrates. In: Michener, R., Lajtha, K. (eds) Stable Isotopes in Ecology and Environmental Science, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. 99-154. PMCid:PMC4634697

Layman C.A., Arrington D.A., Montanä C.G., et al. 2007. Can stable isotope ratios provide for community-wide measures of trophic structure? Ecology 88: 42-48.[42:CSIRPF]2.0.CO;2

Longhurst A. 1998. Ecological geography of the sea. Academic Press.

Martín P., Maynou F., Stelzenmüller V., et al. 2012. A small-scale fishery near a rocky littoral marine reserve in the northwestern Mediterranean (Medes Islands) after two decades of fishing prohibition. Sci. Mar. 76: 607-618.

Martínez del Río C., Wolf N., Carleton S.A., et al. 2009. Isotopic ecology ten years after a call for more laboratory experiments. Biol. Res. 84: 91-111. PMid:19046398

Mercasa 2007. El centollo. Distribución y Consumo 93: 86-89.

Neumann V. 1996. Comparative investigations on the systematics and taxonomy of European Maja species (Decapoda, Brachyura, Majidae). Crustaceana 69: 821-852.

Neumann V. 1998. A review of the Maja squinado (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura) species-complex with a key to the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean species of the genus. J. Nat. Hist. 32: 1667-1684.

Ng P.K.L., Guinot D., Davie P.J.F. 2008. Systema Brachyurorum: Part I. An annotated checklist of extant Brachyuran crabs of the world. Raffles Bull. Zool. 17 (Suppl.): 1-286.

Pantoja S., Repeta D.J., Sachs J.P., et al. 2002. Stable isotope constraints on the nitrogen cycle of the Mediterranean Sea water column. Deep-Sea Res. I 49: 1609-1621.

Parnell A.C, Inger R., Bearhop S., et al. 2010. Source Partitioning Using Stable Isotopes: Coping with Too Much Variation. PLoS One 5: e9672. PMid:20300637 PMCid:PMC2837382

Pinela A.M., Borrell A., Cardona L., et al. 2010. Stable isotope analysis reveals habitat partitioning among marine mammals off the NW African coast and unique trophic niches for two globally threatened species. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 416: 295-306.

Pons Mu-oz J.M. 1994. Menorca y su pesca. Arial.

Post D.M. 2002. Using stable isotopes to estimate trophic position: models, methods, and assumption. Ecology 83: 703-718.[0703:USITET]2.0.CO;2

R Core Team. 2013. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria. URL:

Rodhouse D.M. 1984. Experimental fishing for the spider crab, Maia squinado: sea and laboratory trials. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 64: 251-259.

Rotllant G., Roque A., Solé M., et al. 2013. Assessment of the effects of confinement in the spider crab Maja brachydactyla Blass, 1922 broodstock. Aqua. Res. 44: 412-426.

Sampedro M.P., González-Gurriarán E., Freire J., et al. 1999. Morphometry and sexual maturity in the spider crab Maja squinado (Decapoda, Majidae) in Galicia, Spain. J. Crust. Biol. 19: 578-592.

Somes C.J., Schmittner A., Galbraith E.D., et al. 2010. Simulating the global distribution of nitrogen isotopes in the ocean. Global Biogeochem. Cy. 24, GB4019.

Sotelo G., Morán P., Posada D. 2008. Genetic identification of the northeastern Atlantic spiny spider crab as Maja brachydactyla Balss, 1922. J. Crust. Biol. Biology 28: 76-81.

Sotelo G., Morán P., Posada D. 2009. Molecular phylogeny and biogeographic history of the European Maja spider crabs (Decapoda, Majidae). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 53: 314-319. PMid:19460449

Spivak E., Anger K., Luppi T., et al. 1994. Distribution and habitat preferences of two grapsid crab species in Mar Chiquita Lagoon (Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina). Helgolaender Meeresun. 48: 59-78.

Stevic Z. 1967. Le complexe de la nourriture de l'araignée de mer Maja squinado. Helgolander Wiss. Meer. 15: 630-636.

Stevic Z. 1973. Les migrations de l'Araignée de mer. Rapport Commission International pour l'Exploration Scientifique de la Mediterranée 21: 597-598.

UNEP 1996. Acta final de la reunión de plenipotenciarios sobre los anexos del protocolo referente a las zonas especialmente protegidas y la diversidad biológica en el Mediterráneo. UNEP(OCA)/MED IG 10/4, 2 diciembre 1996.

Vernet G., Charmantier-Daures M. 1994. Mue, Autotomie et régénèration. In: Masson (ed) Traité de Zoologie. Anatomie, Systématique, Biologie. Tome VII, Fascicule I: Crustacés. Morphologie, Physiologie, Reproduction, Systématique. Paris, France: pp. 107-155.

Yokoyama H., Tamaki A., Harada K., et al. 2005. Variability of diet-tissue isotopic fractionation in estuarine macrobenthos. Mar. Ecol. Pro. Ser. 296: 115-128.

Zariquiey-Álvarez R. 1968. Crustáceos Decápodos Ibéricos. Invest. Pesq. 32: 1-510.

Copyright (c) 2016 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Contact us

Technical support