Dietary analysis and mesocosm feeding trials confirm the eastern rock lobster (Sagmariasus verreauxi) as a generalist predator that can avoid ingesting urchin spines during feeding
Marine and Freshwater Research
Worldwide, lobsters are considered important predators of macroalgae-consuming urchin species, but this has not been tested for Australia's common lobster, the eastern rock lobster (Sagmariasus verreauxi). We predicted that the abundant urchins, the long-spined urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) and the short-spined urchin (Heliocidaris erythrogramma), would form substantial components of lobster diets. To test this hypothesis, we examined 115 lobster stomachs from 9 locations and conducted 14 feeding trials, in which lobsters were offered either urchin species. Dissections revealed various stomach items, with detritus (51%), bivalves (34%), gastropods (28%) and algae (26%) occurring more frequently than urchins (19%). Urchin spines were found in 22 lobsters that ranged in size from 91- to 124-mm carapace length, with all individuals containing H. erythrogramma spines and C. rodgersii spines observed only once. During feeding trials, seven urchins were consumed. Four H. erythrogramma were eaten on Day 1, whereas one was not eaten until Day 11. Two C. rodgersii were eaten on Days 2 and 10. Only three of the six lobsters observed to eat urchins ingested spines. Together, these data show that S. verreauxi is a generalist predator that consumes urchins, although, because urchins could be eaten without ingesting spines, future studies are needed to assess the importance of urchins as dietary items for S. verreauxi.
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