MEPS 597:161-178 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12621

Benthic enrichment by diatom-sourced lipid promotes growth and condition in juvenile Tanner crabs around Kodiak Island, Alaska

Louise Copeman1,2,*, Clifford Ryer3, Mara Spencer3, Michele Ottmar3, Paul Iseri3, Angie Sremba2, Jeanette Wells4, Christopher Parrish4

1College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 2030 Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA
2Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, Oregon State University, 2030 Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA
3Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program, Resource Conservation and Engineering Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, 2030 Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA
4Department of Ocean Sciences, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 5S7, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Nearshore embayments are important nurseries for juvenile southern Tanner crabs Chionoecetes bairdi, as they provide refuge from predation and elevated water temperatures promote rapid growth. Previous investigations of juvenile Tanner crabs have shown considerable variability in size of age-0 yr crabs from different shallow water embayments surrounding Kodiak, Alaska. To determine the proportion of this presumed growth variability that is due to diet quality, we sampled crabs and sediments over 2 yr at nursery sites that had previously demonstrated disparate age-0 yr crab sizes. Juvenile crabs reside at the sediment-water interface and therefore we measured sedimentary grain size and sedimentary organic matter, as well as total lipids per weight, lipid classes and fatty acid biomarkers in both crabs and sediments. Juvenile crabs from sheltered sites, as opposed to exposed sites, were characterized by larger size and by rapid growth rates and higher tissue lipid densities. Further, higher diatom and bacterial fatty acid markers characterized both sedimentary lipids and crab lipids in animals from sheltered bays compared to those from exposed sites. Controlled laboratory experiments were run to determine the relative importance of food quantity (ration) and quality (% lipid) on juvenile growth and condition. We found both diet quantity and quality significantly affected growth and lipid storage of juvenile crabs. Our results point to the importance of trophic factors in defining high quality habitat for a commercially important cold-water crab species.


KEY WORDS: Juvenile Tanner crab · Lipids · Fatty acids · Nursery · Food quality


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Cite this article as: Copeman L, Ryer C, Spencer M, Ottmar M and others (2018) Benthic enrichment by diatom-sourced lipid promotes growth and condition in juvenile Tanner crabs around Kodiak Island, Alaska. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 597:161-178. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12621

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