Pelagic swarms and beach strandings of the squat lobster Munida gregaria (Anomura: Munididae) in the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego

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The present article is the first formal record of pelagic swarms and beach strandings of the squat lobster Munida gregaria in the Beagle Channel, southern South America. To describe size composition and natural diet of beach strandings and swarms, samples from strandings were taken in April 2007, March 2008 and March 2010. Samples from swarms were taken in May 2007 and April 2010. Also, during November 2008 and January 2009, two acoustic surveys were carried out to describe both, horizontal distribution and school metrics of swarms. Pelagic swarms and beach strandings were composed of 100% individuals of the morph gregaria of M. gregaria. Mean size of males and females in both, beach strandings and swarms, were similar. The diet of pelagic M. gregaria was composed mainly of crustaceans, unicellular algae and small macroalgae, sediment and particulate organic matter. Swarms of pelagic Munida took the shape of extended layers of varying density and height. Their positions in the water column were also variable: swarms were found at different depths, from the subsurface layer to near the sea bottom. Occasionally, some large swarms occupied most of the water column. In the Beagle Channel, SW winds during spring tides could be a forcing factor for M. gregaria strandings. The absence of shoaling animals in the Beagle Channel between 1997 and 2002 and the recent occurrence of swarms are coincident with their appearance in other locations in Patagonia. In consequence, we hypothesize that the factor influencing the formation of swarms must be acting at a regional scale.

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We are grateful to O. Florentín, M. P. Sotelano, R. Sáenz Samaniego, M. Pérez and M. Gowland for field and laboratory assistance. M. Gutiérrez and two anonymous reviewers provided useful suggestions for manuscript improvement. This study was funded by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 34146; PICT-Bicentenario 10-1123) and Wildlife Conservation Society granted to ACM Schiavini. MJD and GS have postdoctoral and doctoral fellowships, respectively, from CONICET, Argentina.

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Correspondence to Mariano J. Diez.

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Diez, M.J., Pérez-Barros, P., Carolina Romero, M. et al. Pelagic swarms and beach strandings of the squat lobster Munida gregaria (Anomura: Munididae) in the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego. Polar Biol 35, 973–983 (2012) doi:10.1007/s00300-011-1144-5

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  • Krill
  • Shoals
  • Sub-Antarctic
  • Distribution
  • Hydroacoustic