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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 394:153-163 (2009)  -  DOI:

Lifetime reproductive potential of female blue crabs Callinectes sapidus in North Carolina, USA

M. Zachary Darnell1,*, Dan Rittschof1, Kelly M. Darnell1,2, Ruth E. McDowell1,3

1Duke University Marine Laboratory, Nicholas School of the Environment, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd., Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
2Present address: Marine Science Institute, The University of Texas at Austin, 750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, Texas 78373, USA
3Present address: Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham. 1530 3rd Ave. S., CH 103, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA

ABSTRACT: We examined lifetime clutch production and size at maturity for blue crabs Callinectes sapidus Rathbun in North Carolina, USA. Female crabs were collected at terminal molt and confined individually in the field for the duration of their lifetime. Crabs were monitored weekly for the presence of eggs. Clutch quality and larval viability were assessed for each clutch. Crabs produced up to 7 clutches over 1 to 2 spawning seasons and survived up to 394 d after the terminal molt. Time to first clutch and time between clutches were positively correlated with carapace width and best described by degree-days, physiological time calculated as a thermal integral. Size at maturity was negatively correlated with water temperature on the day of the terminal molt. Egg lipid content (mean = 79.2% of dry mass), egg diameter (mean = 267.5 µm), larval carapace width (mean = 278.4 µm), and larval survival time without food (mean = 3.4 d) were similar for all clutches. The percentage of embryos developing normally decreased 40% from Clutch 1 to 4, and clutch volume decreased 50% from Clutch 1 to 5. Thus, most of a crab’s reproductive output is from the first few clutches. Realistic estimates of fecundity and reproductive potential are essential for accurate spawning stock assessment and population modeling.

KEY WORDS: Blue crab · Callinectes sapidus · Reproductive potential · Spawning biology ·Fecundity · Multiple clutches · Degree-days

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Cite this article as: Darnell MZ, Rittschof D, Darnell KM, McDowell RE (2009) Lifetime reproductive potential of female blue crabs Callinectes sapidus in North Carolina, USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 394:153-163.

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