Biology

Acetoin is a key odor for resource location in the giant robber crab Birgus latro [SHORT COMMUNICATION]

Markus Knaden, Sonja Bisch-Knaden, Jeanine Linz, Andreas Reinecke, Jakob Krieger, Susanne Erland, Steffen Harzsch, and Bill S. Hansson

The terrestrial and omnivorous robber crab Birgus latro inhabits islands of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The animals live solitarily but occasionally gather at freshly opened coconuts or fructiferous arenga palms. By analyzing volatiles of coconuts and arenga fruit, we identified five compounds, including acetoin, which are present in both food sources. In a behavioral screen performed in the crabs’ habitat, a beach on Christmas Island, we found that of 15 tested fruit compounds, acetoin was the only volatile eliciting significant attraction. Hence, acetoin might play a key role in governing the crabs’ aggregation behavior at both food sources.

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