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Sea urchin behavior in a Southern California Kelp Forest: Food, fear, behavioral niches, and scaling up individual behavior

In this study, high-frequency in situ time-lapse photography was conducted over weeklong periods with experimental food additions in different microtopographic settings and at different sites relative to a sea urchin grazing front. Our time-lapse study of red and purple sea urchins was conducted to (1) investigate behavioral differences between these two species (i.e., behavioral niches) and how these might contribute to the onset, distribution, persistence, and resilience of barrens, (2) determine the nature of interactions between them, (3) gauge their relative “food versus fear”motivational hierarchies, and relative response intensities to other potential behavioral cues, (4) investigate behavioral patterns of sea urchins within and behind a feeding front and among different structural habitats, (5) gain insight into the perceptual ranges of sea urchins in the field, and (6) identify characteristic modes of individual behavior that can be used to scale up to characteristic modes of group movement (c.f., herd behavior).

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