Western rock lobsters, Panulirus cygnus are an abundant benthic consumer distributed along the temperate west coast of Australia and constitute the largest single species fishery in Australia. As a dominant consumer, it is important to understand their predator-prey interactions as they can potentially exert strong trophic effects, and may influence ecosystem function as seen in other spiny lobster species. While previous field studies have focused on the diet composition of P. cygnus, this study investigated their preference for various benthic invertebrate prey to better understand the likely predator-prey interactions of P. cygnus. Prey preferences of small sub-legal juvenile lobsters, as well as medium and large legal-sized mature lobsters were investigated using laboratory feeding trials to identify size-associated differences in lobster prey preference. Handling time and diet quality were investigated to estimate energetic cost and gain from consuming different prey which may explain prey choice by lobsters. It was found that large lobsters preferred crabs and mussels while medium and small lobsters preferred crabs over mussels, gastropods, and sea urchins. This suggests that strong predator-prey interactions between P. cygnus and crabs may occur in the wild. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
|Journal||Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|