Endogenous swimming rhythms underlying the spawning migration of the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus: Ontogeny and variation with ambient tidal regime


Journal Article

Spawning female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, use ebb-tide transport (ETT) to migrate seaward. In estuaries with semi-diurnal tides, ETT in ovigerous blue crabs is driven by a circatidal rhythm in vertical swimming in which crabs ascend into the water column during ebb tide. The ontogeny of this rhythm was examined by monitoring swimming behavior of females before the pubertal molt, females that had recently undergone the molt but had not yet produced a clutch of eggs, and ovigerous females from an estuary with strong semi-diurnal tides. To assess variation in swimming rhythms with ambient tidal regime, swimming rhythms of ovigerous females from semi-diurnal (Beaufort, North Carolina), diurnal (St. Andrew Bay, Florida), and non-tidal (South River, North Carolina) estuaries were compared. Experiments were conducted during the summers of 2006-2008. Female crabs prior to oviposition had variable endogenous swimming rhythms (circadian, circatidal, or circalunidian). Ovigerous females from estuaries with semi-diurnal and diurnal tides had pronounced circatidal or circalunidian rhythms with swimming during the time of ambient ebb tide. Swimming rhythms of several ovigerous crabs switched between circatidal and circalunidian during the ~5-day observation period. Ovigerous crabs from a non-tidal estuary had a circadian rhythm with vertical swimming around the time of sunset. These results suggest that, while endogenous swimming rhythms are present in some female blue crabs prior to oviposition, rapid seaward movement via ETT in tidal estuaries begins following oviposition of the first clutch of eggs. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Darnell, MZ; Rittschof, D; Forward, RJB

Published Date

  • July 13, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 157 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 2415 - 2425

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0025-3162

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00227-010-1506-5

Citation Source

  • Scopus