The culture of decapod crustaceans occurs worldwide. Aggressive behaviour is common in many of the species, including crayfish. This is problematic when it physically damages stock and reduces quality. Numerous biological factors influence crayfish fighting behaviour but the influence of environmental factors is not well known. This study investigated the effect of habitat complexity on the agonistic interactions of Australian freshwater crayfish, more commonly referred to locally as 'yabbies' (Cherax destructor Clark). Solid objects that provided structure but not shelter were used to manipulate the complexity of the environment. The number, duration and dynamic of aggressive interactions within groups of animals were observed and recorded in simple and complex environments. Habitat complexity reduced both the number of agonistic interactions and the total time spent interacting. It is suggested that the structure in the environment distracts crayfish from the presence of others or physically blocks contact between them. These results extend our knowledge of crayfish social behaviour and may provide opportunities for reducing detrimental aggressive interactions in the aquaculture industry. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
- Group behaviour
- Habitat complexity