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Does maternal size affect red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, embryo and larval quality?

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Stock assessment of Alaskan red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus (Tilesius, 1815), can be improved by incorporating reproductive output, which requires an understanding of maternal size effects on embryo and larval quality. In June 2009 and 2010, we collected clutches of recently extruded red king crab embryos in Bristol Bay, Alaska, to assess embryo quality based on dry weight, carbon and nitrogen content. To assess larval quality, we collected ovigerous females from Bristol Bay in 2007 and reared them in the laboratory until larval hatching in 2008. Larval quality based on dry weight, carbon and nitrogen content, and times to 50% mortality under starvation conditions were assessed. All samples were collected in years that were colder than the 15-year average in the eastern Bering Sea. Among the measures of embryo quality, only nitrogen content was significantly different, increasing with maternal size. Carbon and nitrogen content were significantly higher for embryos in 2009 than in 2010, suggesting inter-annual differences in maternal investment. No effect of maternal size with larval quality was found. Our results indicate that maternal size does not have a biologically significant effect on embryo and larval quality in colder-than-average years, and therefore maternal size effects on embryo and larval quality does not need to be explicitly incorporated into reproductive output estimates in stock assessments under these conditions. We are, however, cautious to extrapolate our results to years with different environmental conditions. Further study is needed to fully resolve the possible interaction of environment with maternal size effects on embryo and larval quality for red king crab.

Affiliations: 1: 1Kodiak Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 301 Research Court, Kodiak, AK 99615, U.S.A.; 2: 2Juneau Center, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 17101 Point Lena Loop Road, Juneau, AK 99801, U.S.A.


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