chemoreception, communication, Crustacea, olfaction, social behavior


Marine Biology


Decapod crustaceans, like many other animals, engage in agonistic behaviors that enhance their ability to compete for resources with conspecifics. These agonistic behaviors include the release of chemical signals as well as physical aggressive and submissive behaviors. In this study, we report that Caribbean spiny lobsters, Panulirus argus, use both urine-borne chemical signaling and physical aggressive behaviors during interactions with conspecifics, and that these agonistic behaviors can influence the behavior and eventual social status of the interactants. Spiny lobsters that engaged primarily in physical aggressive behaviors became dominant, whereas spiny lobsters that received these physical aggressive behaviors responded with avoidance behaviors and became subordinates. Dominant animals frequently released urine during social interactions, more than when they were not in contact with subordinates and more than when they were not paired with another animal. Subordinates released urine significantly less often than dominants,and no more than when not paired. Preventing release of urine by catheterizing the animals resulted in an increase in the number and duration of physical interactions, and this increase was primarily driven by dominants initiating interactions through physical aggressive behaviors. Introducing urine from one of the catheterized animals into an aquarium reduced physical aggressive behavior by dominant animals to normal levels. Urine-borne signals alone were capable of inducing avoidance behaviors from solitary spiny lobsters in both laboratory and field conditions. We conclude that urine serves as a chemical signal that communicates social status to the interactants. Ablation experiments showed that that these urine signals are detected primarily by aesthetasc sensilla of the olfactory pathway.

Original Citation

Shabani, S., Kamio, M., & Derby, C. D. (2009). Spiny lobsters use urine-borne olfactory signaling and physical aggressive behaviors to influence social status of conspecifics. Journal of Experimental Biology, 212(15), 2464–2474.