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Biology and interspecific interactions of the alien crab Percnon gibbesi (H. Milne-Edwards, 1853) in the Maltese Islands

Spatial and bathymetric distribution, population density, habitat preferences, fecundity, breeding season and interspecific interactions of the alien grapsoid crab Percnon gibbesi (H. Milne-Edwards, 1853) from the Maltese Islands (Malta and Gozo) were compared among localities in the Mediterranean where established populations have been reported since 1999. In the Maltese Islands, habitat preferences and bathymetric distribution were similar to those in other Mediterranean localities. Spatial distribution was found to be limited by the availability of the boulder habitat in which this crab nearly always occurs. Fecundity was higher in the Maltese Islands than in Linosa and Lampedusa, the breeding season lasting from the end of May until September. On Maltese shores the habitat of the alien overlapped with that of the native grapsid Pachygrapsus marmoratus (Fabricius, 1787) (Crustacea: Brachyura: Grapsoidea) and, to a lesser extent, that of the native xanthid Eriphia verrucosa (Forskal, 1775). Laboratory studies to assess the possible interactions of the alien species with P. marmoratus suggest that the latter shows a competitive advantage over P. gibbesi, since 80.8% of encounters between the two species were initiated by P. marmoratus, and in 80% of the encounters it prevailed. This suggests that P. marmoratus is unlikely to be excluded from its natural habitat by the alien species, and that significant spatial resource partitioning on the part of P. marmoratus is unlikely to occur.

Sciberras M. & Schembri P.J. (2008). Biology and interspecific interactions of the alien crab Percnon gibbesi (H. Milne-Edwards, 1853) in the Maltese Islands. Marine Biology Research 4: 321-332.

 

 PERCNON

Co-occurrence of Percnon gibbesi and Pachygrapsus marmoratus on Maltese shores (credit: Marija Sciberras). 

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