MEPS prepress abstract  -  DOI:

Energetic consequences of temperature and sequential autotomization for the stone crab, Menippe spp

Eric R. Hancock*, Blaine D. Griffen


ABSTRACT: The stone crab, Menippe spp., is harvested in a claw-only fishery along the Gulf and southeastern Atlantic coasts of the United States. As climate change continues to warm these areas, crabs are forced to cope with higher water temperatures. Altered environmental conditions may influence crab energetics by influencing both energy intake and expenditure. To prepare for a potential range expansion of the crab, this study investigated the energetic intake and expenditure of individual stone crabs. Crabs were found to respire 80 and 69% more following the loss of major and minor claws, respectively. The Q10, the factor by which the mass-specific respiration rates change as temperature is increased by 10°C, was found to be 1.54. Mass-specific consumption of oysters in field cages increased by 15.8% for every 10°C increase in water temperature. Ingestion efficiency did not significantly vary with crab size, water temperature, or claw loss. We hypothesize that the ingestion efficiency of soft tissue did not change with the loss of the claws due to the unique feeding behavior of the stone crab. The front four walking legs were used more in food manipulation than both major and minor claws. Although current regulations were designed to promote sustainability and allow for the possibility of previously harvested crabs to reenter the commercially available stock, the results of this study suggest that stone crabs may struggle to cope with fishery-style claw loss in warming conditions that are expected with continued climate change, especially in areas that are O2-depleted.