Henslow’s swimming crab (Polybius henslowii) as an important food for yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans) in NW Spain

Munilla, I. Henslow’s swimming crab (Polybius henslowii) as an important food for yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans) in NW Spain. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil 54, 631–634 (1997).


An analysis of the contents of 2562 pellets sampled from 1987 to 1993 at breeding colonies and roosting sites showed that Henslow’s swimming crabs (Polybius henslowii) are by far the most important marine prey for yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans) on the coasts of Galicia (north-western Spain), occurring in 36.4% of pellets. The results also suggest that yellow-legged gulls in Galicia are to a great extent marine foragers. Galicia has one of the largest yellow-legged gull populations in western Europe, largely dominating the seabird community. Polybius henslowii is the most abundant decapod crab over the continental shelf of Galicia. It enters coastal waters in large shoals and frequently stays close to the sea surface. Compared with the diets of other yellow-legged gull populations or any of the other closely related gull species, such as the herring (L. argentatus) and the lesser black-backed gull (L. fuscus), Polybius henslowii appears as a characteristic and even exclusive prey of yellow-legged gull populations in the Iberian Atlantic. There is also some evidence that the regular irruption of large Polybius henslowii shoals is a phenomenon peculiar to Iberian Atlantic waters.

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