Faculty Publications

Unravelling The Ecological Significance Of Endogenous Rhythms In Intertidal Crabs

Document Type



Circadian, Crab, Ecology, Larval release, Locomotor, Rhythms, Tides

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Biological Rhythm Research





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Last Page



Organisms living along the shore are exposed to complex sets of environmental oscillations. In addition to solar (24.0 h) and lunar (24.8 h) cycles, local tides may reoccur on a 12.4 h schedule. Beyond daily routines, biweekly, monthly and annual rhythms may each have a significant impact on an animal's activity. For some time, it has been established firmly that intertidal crabs possess several internal biological clocks with distinctly different periods and properties. However, the versatility of these clocks has not been obvious. Crabs living in the littoral zone must adjust their internal chronometers to be synchronous with the specific temporal structure of the immediate habitat. Fine adjustments in their clocks will depend upon on a particular tide province and the location of their niche in the intertidal zone. Over a wide geographic range, the location of an intertidal habitat for one species may be in as many as four tidal provinces. Based on wave form and harmonic components, tide provinces are characterized as either a) semidiurnal, b) mixed, mainly semidiurnal, c) mixed mainly diurnal, or d) diurnal. Likewise, the primary frequency associated with an intertidal niche in each tide province may be augmented by diel (24 h) and semilunar (14 day) periods. In addition, supralittoral habitats may be influenced by monthly (28 day) and seasonal rhythms. Since some species live in several tidal provinces and different positions in the littoral zone, locomotor and larval release rhythms of intertidal crabs must naturally be adjusted to the timetable of the local habitat. Flexibility in ambulatory and egg hatching rhythms of crabs are discussed from this environmental perspective. The nature and location of the underlying circadian and tidal oscillators tracking these environmental rhythms are reviewed.


Department of Biology

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version