Movement patterns and trajectories of ovigerous blue crabs Callinectes sapidus during the spawning migration
Female blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun) migrate from low salinity estuarine regions to high salinity regions near the ocean to release larvae. During this migration, ovigerous females use ebb-tide transport, a vertical migratory behavior in which they ascend into the water column during ebb tides, to move seaward to larval release areas. In order to determine the relationship of ebb-tide vertical migrations to local currents and the influence of these vertical migrations on the horizontal transport of blue crabs in the estuary, ovigerous females with mature embryos (∼1-3 days from hatching) were tracked near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina (USA), in July and August 2001 and 2002. Crabs were tagged and tracked using ultrasonic telemetry, and currents near the crabs were measured simultaneously with a shipboard acoustic Doppler current profiler. During the two seasons, eight crabs were successfully tracked for periods ranging from 3.9-37.0h and for distances ranging from 1.9-10.6km. All crabs migrated seaward during the tracking periods. Crabs moved episodically during all tidal phases with periods of movement on the order of minutes to an hour. They moved with local currents in terms of both speed and direction during ebb tides, consistent with ebb-tide transport, and moved down-estuary (seaward) in opposition to local currents during flood tides. The percentage of time that crabs were active was higher during night ebb tides than during day ebb tides or flood tides and increased with increasing ebb-tide current speed. Mean migratory speeds were 0.11, 0.04, 0.08 and 0.02ms-1 during night ebb, night flood, day ebb and day flood tides, respectively, and net migratory speeds were on the order of 5kmday-1. Due to the episodic nature of the crabs' movements, the total distances that crabs traveled during ebb tides ranged from 10-40% of the distances that passive particles could have traveled under the same conditions. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Carr, SD; Tankersley, RA; Hench, JL; Forward, RB; Luettich, RA
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)