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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT Females of the red land crab Gecarcinus lateralis (Fréminville) must leave the physiological and physical protection of a terrestrial burrow to carry their developing egg masses to the surf and release the pelagic larvae. En route, both adults and eggs may encounter increased risks from predators, extremes of salinity (rain or concentrated tidepools), and wave impact. Several types of behavior by ovigerous females reduce these risks to both adult females and larvae during migration and spawning. Females migrate directly toward the shore, reducing the time required to reach the sea. They spawn synchronously. Ovigerous females actively release eggs only when the eggs are ripe, precluding premature release, but will do so in water of any salinity, whether still or agitated. Physiological adaptations of larvae would contribute little to their survival were eggs released in extreme salinities; the range of tolerance is only 50-125% sea water. The spawning females avoid standing water of any salinity, thereby preventing release of larvae in dilute or concentrated tidepools, or those without connection with the sea. Females begin migration to the nearshore zone before egg-releasing behavior develops, hence are unlikely to release eggs prematurely if inundated by rain. Spawning females approach the surf hesitantly, minimizing the risk of being swept to sea. The reliance of G. lateralis upon adult behaviors to reduce risks during migration and spawning is compared with strategies of other land crabs which appear to rely more heavily upon larval adaptations.

Affiliations: 1: Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27650.


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