Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 June 2009
Predation has long been recognized as an important biological force driving community patterns in intertidal rocky shores throughout the world. Little is known, however, about the role of predation by mobile marine predators in shaping intertidal prey populations in Portuguese rocky shores. The abundance and population structure of crabs were assessed during nocturnal low-tides on two rocky shores to characterize potential predator species. To assess the effect of predation on intertidal species including limpets, barnacles and mussels, predator exclusion experiments using full cage, partial cage and no cage treatments, were set up for two months on two shores on the central Portuguese coast. Pachygrapsus marmoratus (Fabricius) and Eriphia verrucosa (Forsskål) were the most abundant crabs. Results from predator exclusion experiments suggested that predators do not exert a significant control on abundance of limpets, mussels or barnacles on the midshore during the experimental period. Despite the fact that these crabs are known to feed on the analysed prey, several factors may account for the observed absence of impact on prey abundance and these are discussed.