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Estuaries

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 631–640 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal patterns of spawning and larval hatching by the horseshoe crab,Limulus polyphemus, in a microtidal coastal lagoon

  • Gretchen S. Ehlinger
  • Richard A. Tankersley
  • Mark B. Bush
Article

Abstract

Estuarine species with wide geographic distributions often experience tidal regimes that vary significantly throughout their range. Plasticity in behaviors associated with the tide is expected to enable synchronization with local tides. The American horseshoe crabLimulus polyphemus typically inhabits estuaries and coastal areas with pronounced semi-diurnal tides that play a role in synchronizing the timing of spawning and larval hatching, but also lives in areas that lack significant tides and associated synchronization cues. We investigated the spatial and temporal pattern of adult spawning and larval hatching ofL. polyphemus in a microtidal coastal lagoon (Indian River Lagoon, Florida, USA). Spawning activity and larval abundance were monitored weekly February 1998–August 2000 at sites spanning 100 km of the lagoon. To identify possible synchronization cues for spawning and hatching success, the presence of adult and larvalL. polyphemus were related to environmental and hydrologic variables using logistic regression. The presence of spawning adults varied significantly among the sub-basins of the lagoon, with the highest densities occurring in the Banana River. Large spawning aggregations were not observed and densities never exceeded 6 m−2. Spawning occurred year-round but varied seasonally with episodes of increased mating activity in the early spring. The occurrence of mating pairs was episodic and was not synchronized among sites. Larval densities were low (4 m−3) and larvae were present at only 12 of the 21 sites. Hatching success was decoupled temporally from spawning activity, with peaks in larval abundance occurring approximately 8 wk after peaks in spawning. Larval abundance was associated with periods of high water. Reproductive activity of horseshoe crabs in the lagoon differs significantly from populations inhabiting areas with semi-diurnal and diurnal tides. These differences are likely due to the lack of periodic tidally-related synchronization cues and regular beach inundation.

Keywords

Reproductive Activity Larval Density Horseshoe Crab Mating Pair Hydrologic Variable 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gretchen S. Ehlinger
    • 1
  • Richard A. Tankersley
    • 1
  • Mark B. Bush
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesFlorida Institute of TechnologyMelbourne

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