A molting chemical cue (N-acetylglucosamine-6-phosphate) contributes to cannibalism of Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis

Zi X., Li Y., Li G., Jia B., Jeppesen E., Zeng Q., ...More

Aquatic Toxicology, vol.263, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 263
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2023.106666
  • Journal Name: Aquatic Toxicology
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, Aqualine, Aquatic Science & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), Artic & Antarctic Regions, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts Core, Chimica, EMBASE, Environment Index, Geobase, Greenfile, Pollution Abstracts, Veterinary Science Database
  • Keywords: Chemical cues, Chitin metabolites, Crab behavior, Metabolomics, Molting biomarker
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


Under high-density culture, cannibalism occurs frequently during the molting of the Chinese mitten crabs Eriocheir sinensis, resulting in a large reduction in production. We found that the leakage of molting fluid from sexually immature crabs informs conspecifics that they are in a molting process. This hypothesis was verified through metabolomics analyses combined with behavioral experiments. The GlcNAc-6-P was identified as a molting biomarker from the differential metabolites by non-targeted metabolomics. In addition, we found that the concentration of GlcNAc-6-P in the molting fluid was significantly higher than other molting metabolites at different molting stages, reaching 5.84 μmol L−1, indicating that the molting fluid was the source of GlcNAc-6-P. Moreover, the behavioral experiments showed that crabs were actively approached to high concentrations of GlcNAc-6-P (1 μmol L−1), but had no obvious choice tendency at different concentrations of UTP, 20-HE and low concentrations of GlcNAc-6-P (0.1 μmol L−1, 0.01 μmol L−1) compared with the control groups. In conclusion, that E. sinensis by sensing the concentration change of GlcNAc-6-P can locate the source of GlcNAc-6-P release and actively approach the high concentration GlcNAc-6-P area and attack the molting crab, causing cannibalism. Blocking the reception pathway of molting chemical cues in E. sinensis, thereby preventing the perception of signals originating from conspecifics' molting in the vicinity, could lead to a reduction in cannibalistic behavior and an increase in overall production. Additionally, this method presents a prospective solution for addressing cannibalism in other crustacean species where such behavior is prevalent.