Sandy beach ecosystems have been studied worldwide; however, ecological data are sparse for the extensive barrier islands of Florida. Accordingly, I investigated the feeding patterns of the ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata ), a dominant omnivore inhabiting beaches along the Floridian coast. Density data was collected for ghost crabs and swash macroinfaunal prey. In addition, I utilized stable isotopes in conjunction with the mixing models IsoSource and SIAR to characterize diets of ghost crabs across three barrier islands in spring and summer 2011. Results showed that ghost crabs at Cayo Costa feed primarily on swash macroinfauna, while those from Anclote Key shifted their diet to one comprised primarily of semi-terrestrial amphipods. However, at Honeymoon Island, ghost crab isotopic signatures were best explained by a mixed diet of both macroinfauna and wrack-associated prey. The unique consumption of wrack fauna at Anclote Key co-occurs with comparatively low infaunal densities and biomass, and modified ghost crab behavior due to trait-mediated effects. My results are novel because they suggest that wrack-associated fauna may be an important food source for ghost crabs in certain beach regimes.
|Advisor:||Bell, Susan S.|
|Commitee:||Lewis, David, Motta, Philip|
|School:||University of South Florida|
|Department:||Biology (Integrative Biology)|
|School Location:||United States -- Florida|
|Source:||MAI 51/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Florida, Food webs, Ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata, Stable isotopes, Swash zone|
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