Adaptive signaling behavior in stomatopods under varying light conditions
Stomatopod crustaceans (mantis shrimp) are aggressive benthic marine predators with extraordinary color vision. When communicating with conspecifics, many stomatopods display conspicuously colored body areas, often in combination with other types of signals such as motion and chemical cues. Some species occupy wide depth ranges (>30 m), where changing light conditions can influence color perception. To test the potential effects of differing ambient lights on signaling behavior, stomatopods (Gonodactylus smithii) interacted with conspecifics in aquaria, under full-spectrum, high intensity light or light restricted in either spectrum or intensity. During intrasexual and intersexual trials in full-spectrum, high intensity light, animals performed more aggressive acts using colored body parts (meral spread, lunge, strike). Stomatopods used significantly more antennular flicking, and performed aggressive acts at reduced distances under restricted light conditions. To compare the use of antennules in visual and chemical communication, additional experiments showed more antennular flicking in response to chemical stimuli from food or conspecifics compared to seawater controls. This response ceased immediately after ablation of antennular chemoreceptors but returned to pre-treatment levels after 5 days of recovery. These findings suggest that stomatopods can vary their use of signals during conspecific interactions under different photic conditions. These inducible, plastic behavioral responses can potentially improve signal transfer in varying light environments.