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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 246:241-252 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps246241

Living on the edge: distribution of Dungeness crab Cancer magister in a recently deglaciated fjord

S. J. Taggart1,*, P. N. Hooge2, J. Mondragon1, E. R. Hooge2, A. G. Andrews1

1US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Glacier Bay Field Station, PO Box 240009, Douglas, Alaska 99824-0009, USA
2US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Glacier Bay Field Station, PO Box 140, Gustavus, Alaska 99826, USA

ABSTRACT: Glacier Bay, Alaska, has supported a productive Dungeness crab fishery, although the area where the fishery occurred was small relative to the remainder of the Bay. We hypothesized that 1 or more abiotic limiting factors prevented crabs from surviving in the upper Bay. We tested this hypothesis by systematically sampling for relative abundance of Dungeness crabs from the mouth to the head of the Bay. We measured salinity, temperature and turbidity at each of the sampling sites and at permanent stations to characterize the habitat within and among years. We expected to find a completely truncated spatial distribution. Instead, we found that adult Dungeness crabs can survive in habitats heavily influenced by tidewater glaciers. There were significantly fewer crabs in the upper Bay and a sharp decrease in abundance around 40 km from the mouth of the Bay. The region of the Bay beyond 40 km from the mouth had a very low density of predominately adult male crabs. The narrow size frequency distribution and the lack of small crabs is consistent with poor survival in one of the pre-adult life stages in the upper Bay.

KEY WORDS: Dungeness crab · Recruitment · Post-settlement mortality · Fjord · Oceanography · Temperature · Salinity

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