CZAAWE Resource Article

The impacts of flow on chemical communication strategies and fight dynamics of crayfish
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology
Signal transmission is influenced by the physics of an environment. Consequently, a physical effect on sensory signals can influence how animals send or sample sensory information. Habitat-specific physics may constrain or enhance signal transmission (e.g. sound transmission in a flowing river versus a still pond) and provide a mechanism for the evolution of sensory biases. This study investigated how the transmission of chemically mediated social signals in crayfish is influenced by two different aquatic environments. Agonistic bouts between crayfish were performed under lotic (flowing water) and lentic (nonflowing, still water) conditions. When crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) collected from a lotic system (river) interacted under lotic conditions, we noted that dominant O. rusticus spent more time upstream than subordinate O. rusticus. Orconectes rusticus positioned themselves randomly and spent equal amounts of time with respect to upstream and downstream in the nonflowing environment. We tested another species, Orconectes virilis, collected from a nonflowing environment (lake) and they showed no positional preference when tested in flow. Additionally, both O. rusticus and O. virilis took longer to reach high fight intensities under flow conditions. It was possible to visualize O. rusticus urine release, and they released urine more often when upstream of an opponent in a flow environment during these agonistic bouts. These results suggest that O. rusticus collected from lotic environments release urine to maximize the transmission of chemical cues to a fight opponent. It appears that crayfish may adapt their signalling processes based upon their long-term ambient environments.