Virginia Institute of Marine Science
MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES
Following larval development in coastal waters, postlarvae (megalopae) of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus Rathbun enter inlets and, against the net seaward flow of estuarine waters, move upstream to juvenile habitats. Abundance and vertical distribution of blue crab megalopae in the York River, Virginia, USA, a subsetuary of Chesapeake Bay, was quanitified to examine the hypothesis that megalopae are not transported simply as passive particles, but display behaviors that augment their immigration. Megalopal abundance and depth distribution and environmental variables were measured at shallow (3 to 4 m) sites in 1988 and 1989 and at a deep (10 m) site in 1990. Megalopae were more abundant in the water column during flood than ebb, indicating a net upstream flux of megalopae. Densities were always low during ebb. Highest densities occurred during night flood tides, when megalopae were aggregated near the surface. During day flood tides, megalopae were generally less abundant and distributed deeper in the water column. Occasionally, however, they were abundant during day flood, concentrated near the bottom in deep water. At shallow sites, megalopae were never abundant during day, apparently not ascending into well-lit water. Abundance and depth distribution of megalopae were not affected by current speed, wind speed, water temperature or salinity. A conceptual model of vertical migration of estuarine blue crab megalopae is presented. Megalopae which behave according to this model should lower their susceptibility to predation in the water column by selectively utilizing flood currents to rapidly reach juvenile nursery grounds while avoiding well-lit waters.
BLUE CRAB; MEGALOPAE; TRANSPORT; VERTICAL MIGRATION
Olmi, EJ, Vertical migration of blue crab Callinectes sapidus megalopae: implications for transport in estuaries (1994). MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 113, 39-54.