We compared seasonal patterns of habitat use by the prawn Palaemonetes paludosus and the crayfish Procambarus alleni in Blue Cypress Marsh Conservation Area, Florida. Prawn densities were similar to those found in other oligotrophic wetlands of southern Florida, whereas crayfish densities were much greater than reported previously for other wetlands in the area. Prawns and crayfish had strikingly different patterns of habitat use. Prawn density and biomass were similar in wet prairies and sloughs, whereas crayfish density and biomass were significantly higher in wet prairies. Within habitats, the abundance of prawns and crayfish generally increased with increasing structural complexity and the abundance of crayfish generally decreased with increasing water depth. Differences in risk of predation, frequency of agonistic encounters, food availability, and other factors likely contributed to observed patterns of habitat use. Because of differences in their ability to burrow and avoid concentration into dry-season refugia, prawns and crayfish responded very differently to seasonal variation in hydrologic conditions. Prawn densities were initially low (following a severe drought) and then increased during much of the study period, whereas crayfish densities were relatively stable throughout the study period. Overall, it appears that prawns are more responsive to antecedent hydrologic conditions and crayfish are more responsive to the availability of suitable habitats such as wet prairies.
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Vol. 20 • No. 4