Sublethal burdens of lead impair behaviors critical to survival in a variety of animals. In a test arena, I measured refuge-seeking behaviors of adult, male, lined shore crabs from lead-free and lead-contaminated sites. The body sizes of the test groups did not differ although the mean total body lead burdens differed by over 2,300%. A lead-contaminated environment does not appear to affect growth. Each of the 31 crabs had at least six trials in the arena. The fraction of trials with more than one pause, number of pauses per trial, mean time per pause, and the fraction of time a crab spent in pauses did not differ between groups. The absence of behavioral effects of the lead burdens may be because a large portion of the lead burden was sequestered in the carapace. The neurological and other soft tissues would then have lower levels of lead. Predators that ingest primarily soft tissues would have little exposure to the lead burden of these crabs. Those that also ingest the carapace may benefit from its high calcium content that inhibits lead uptake from the gut, regardless of the location of lead in the crab body.
Additional publication details
Lead burdens and behavioral impairments of the lined shore crab Pachygrapsus crassipes