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Effects of water availability and migration timing from sea to land on survival and moulting in megalopae and juveniles of the coconut crab, Birgus latro: implications for mass production of juveniles

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Populations of the coconut crab, Birgus latro (Linnaeus, 1767), have been depleted by overharvesting and environmental degradation. The aim of this study was to develop artificial propagation technologies for the restocking and conservation of this species. Coconut crabs migrate from the sea to land as megalopae, carrying gastropod shells. We examined the effects of sea-water availability and the timing of their involuntary migration from sea to land on the survival and moulting of megalopae and juveniles by culturing them individually in containers with dry “land” but with or without aquatic “sea areas.” The schedule of their involuntary migration to the land in the test containers was set at ages of 5 and 10 days after metamorphosis to the megalopal stage, and at ages between 12 and 16 days, when the megalopae walked steadily while wearing a shell. The treatments did not affect the moulting of the animals. The animals survived in the containers with seawater areas. In contrast, all those in the containers without sea areas died, and severe mortality occurred after the animals moulted to the crab stage, suggesting that water availability may protect the animals from desiccation in air during and after ecdysis. Old megalopae (10 days old) appeared to be more active than young megalopae (5 days old) in walking and manipulating shells at first landing, although the three different schedules of migration to land did not affect the survival of the animals. Our results highlight the importance of water availability in culturing coconut crab juveniles.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Marine Biosciences, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Konan, Minato, Tokyo 108-8477, Japan


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