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Distribution and Abundance of Phyllosoma Larvae (Decapoda, Palinuridae) in the Southern Gulf of Mexico and the Western Caribbean Sea

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From plankton samples collected during two oceanographic expeditions in the southern Gulf of Mexico (1991) and five in the Mexican Caribbean Sea, we studied the composition, abundance, and distribution of the phyllosoma larvae. A total of 118 phyllosomas belonging to five species of lobster were recorded. Panulirus argus was the most abundant and dominant, it represented 73.9% of the total number of phyllosomas collected, followed by Scyllarides aequinoctialis (18.0%). The phyllosomas were distributed mainly in the coastal areas, with decreasing densities oceanwards. Highest larval concentrations were recorded near the outer border of the Campeche Bank shelf in the southern Gulf of Mexico. In the Mexican Caribbean area, phyllosomas were most abundant around Banco Chinchorro, off Espiritu Santo Bay and Ascension Bay, and near Isla Mujeres; these are well-known spawning areas for the spiny lobster, P. argus and are indicated by the presence of the earliest larval stages. The oldest larvae were concentrated on the Campeche Bank; this was attributed to the effect of a local gyre that retains these larvae. The youngest phyllosomas tended to have an oceanic distribution thus allowing them to enter the oceanic system of mesoscale gyres of the Gulf. In the Mexican Caribbean the coastal shoreward currents seem to act as a retention system for lobster larvae. The distribution of the phyllosoma stages in the Caribbean area suggests a continuous presence of different stages year-round. Some of these larvae, in the northeastern sector, would likely be transported to the Campeche Bank.


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