Effects of odor flux and pulse rate on chemosensory tracking in turbulent odor plumes by the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus

Biol Bull. 2004 Aug;207(1):44-55. doi: 10.2307/1543627.


The ability of animals to track through chemical plumes is often related to properties of evanescent odor bursts and to small-scale mixing process that determine burst properties. However, odor plumes contain variation over a range of scales, and little is known about how variation in the properties of the odor signal on the scale of one to several seconds affects foraging performance. We examined how flux and pulse rate interact to modulate the search behavior of blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, locating odor sources in controlled flume flows. Experimental treatments consisted of continuous plumes and plumes with discrete odor pulses at intervals of 2.5 s and 4 s at two fluxes. Crabs experienced diminished search success and reduced search efficiency as flux decreased and the inter-pulse interval lengthened. There often were significant interactions between flux and pulse length, and neither property completely determined search behavior. Thus, over the time span of several seconds, the blue crab chemosensory system is not a simple flux detector. The sensitivity of blue crabs to inter-pulse intervals in the range of several seconds indicates that larger-scale mixing processes, which create odor variation on comparable scales, may exert a significant impact on foraging success in nature.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Brachyura / physiology*
  • Florida
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Time Factors
  • Water Movements*