Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Susan S. Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christina L. Richards, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David B. Lewis, Ph.D.


stable isotopes, mixing model, SIMMR, diet selectivity, trophic enrichment, omnivory, mangrove crab, habitat modification


The feeding ecology of a common saltmarsh crab, Armases cinereum (Armases), was investigated to determine how habitat (mangrove vs. ecotone, natural mangrove vs. modified mangrove fringe) influenced this species’ feeding behavior and trophic ecology in its southwestern Florida, USA, distribution. In the laboratory, Armases’ preference for mangrove material was examined using leaves of three mangrove species (Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, and Rhizophora mangle) and leaves of different degradation levels (fresh, senescent, and partially-decomposed). Leaf material from A. germinans was preferentially consumed over the other taxa at fresh and partially-decomposed levels of leaf decay. When Armases were offered a choice between four common upland vegetation types (Iva frutescens, Borrichia frutescens, Nephrolepis biserrata, and Stenotaphrum secundatum), the preferred mangrove from the previous experiment (A. germinans, partially-decomposed), and an animal prey item (Gryllodes sigillatus, cricket), Armases displayed greatest selectivity for the animal prey item and high selectivity for both I. frutescens and A. germinans plant taxa (Manly-Chesson α selectivity and Chesson ϵ electivity). Field-based stable isotope analysis was used to determine trophic position and reconstruct dietary proportions of Armases across three pairs of natural and heavily-modified sites within Tampa Bay to determine whether Armases feeding behavior is impacted by the presence of upland forest adjacent to mangrove forest habitat. Analysis of trophic position based on δ15N signatures of Armases from each of the six populations revealed that Armases in habitats with modified connectivity had lower trophic variability and significantly higher average trophic position compared to Armases sampled from the three sites with natural connectivity. Stable isotope diet reconstruction using the Bayesian mixing model SIMMR further established Armases preference for animal-derived food material in habitats with natural and modified connectivity. This preference is likely driven by high selectivity for sources rich in Nitrogen (i.e., animal tissue, partially-decomposed A. germinans material, and I. frutescens). I determined that the use of laboratory experiments in conjunction with stable isotope mixing models is important in accurately investigating feeding preferences of Armases in mangrove intertidal regions. Together, my results show that the diet of Armases is broadly omnivorous and populations can be influenced by the heterogeneity of their habitat. Further feeding experiments, dietary analyses and a longer sampling period are needed to more definitively identify the patterns of Armases detritivory in mangrove and ecotonal upland habitats.