Seasonal and latitudinal variations in the energy reserves of the mud fiddler crab Uca pugnax: Implications for the response to climate change
In 2014, the Atlantic mud fiddler crab Uca pugnax was found 80 km north of its previously known northern range limit. Two years before this shift was noted, we collected a total of 781 male and female specimens from 6 populations along a latitudinal transect extending from Wareham, Massachusetts (41.7615° N), to Tybee Island, Georgia (32.0139° N), USA. By assessing latitudinal and seasonal patterns in the hepatosomatic index (HSI; a measure of stored energy) and the reproductive status of females, we sought to determine whether adult physiological and reproductive limits might slow the northern expansion of U. pugnax. We did not find a latitudinal cline for HSI, suggesting that U. pugnax is a thermal generalist; however, both males and females in the southern part of the range showed greater seasonal fluctuations in HSI compared to northern conspecifics. Across the range, ovigerous females had a significantly reduced HSI, revealing the cost of reproduction. Ovigerous females were found in the May 2013 collection in Massachusetts before ocean conditions were permissible for larval development and earlier than previously reported for this species. U. pugnax is expected to closely track warming conditions in the Northwest Atlantic because adults in northern populations are able to maintain energy stores comparable to that of their southern conspecifics, and they release planktonic larvae in early spring, maximizing their dispersal potential.
Brodie, RJ; Roberts, B; Espinosa, JI; Heilman, K; Borgianini, SA; Welch, JM; Reinsel, KA
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