Responses of estuarine crab megalopae to pressure, salinity and light: Implications for flood-tide transport
The megalopal larval stage of many estuarine brachyuran crabs appears to return to adult habitats by undergoing rhythmic vertical migrations which result in saltatory up-estuary transport on flood tides. Larval ascent into the water column during rising tides may be cued by changing hydrologic variables. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the responses of field-caught megalopae of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus and the fiddler crab Uca spp. to constant rates of pressure and salinity change under laboratory conditions. For both genera, pressure changes resulted in increased movement (barokinesis) and upward migration in the test chamber, with C. sapidus megalopae having a lower response threshold (2.8×10-2 mbar s-1) than Uca spp. larvae (5×10-2 mbar s-1). Similarly, larvae ascended in response to increasing salinity, with C. sapidus larvae being more sensitive. Larvae were negatively phototactic and failed to respond to pressure increases at light levels above 1.0×1015 and 1.0×1013 photons m-2 s-1 for C. sapidus and Uca spp. megalopae, respectively. Such responses are thought to explain the low abundances of larvae in the water column during daytime flood tides. Nevertheless, threshold sensitivities to increasing pressure for both genera were above levels experienced during floodtide conditions in the field. Similarly, it is unlikely that increasing salinity is sufficient to induce ascent in Uca spp. postlarvae. However, rates of salinity increase during midflood tide typically reach levels necessary to induce an ascent in C. sapidus megalopae. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that fiddler crab megalopae utilize an endogenous activity rhythm for flood-tide transport, while blue crab megalopae rely upon external cues, especially salinity changes, to time their sojourns in the water column. © 1995 Springer-Verlag.
Tankersley, RA; McKelvey, LM; Forward, RB
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