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Synchronisation of Molting and Oogenic Cycles in a Continuously Breeding Population of the Sand Crab Emerita Asiatica on the Madras Coast, South India

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Abstract In the mole crab Emerita asiatica, the female reproductive cycle is repetitive; when the pleopodal embryos undergo development, there is a concurrent maturation of oocytes within the ovary making it ready for the next spawning. However, molting occurs after hatching of the larvae from the pleopods and before spawning. In E. asiatica, the developmental changes of setae on the pleopods and the extent of epidermal retraction were used to define the molt cycle stages. Contrary to earlier reports on embryo-carrying decapods, in E. asiatica the first sign of molting, viz., the retraction of epidermis, is evident even before the hatching of the embryos. The premolt stages advance further up to D1, at a time when the pleopodal embryos hatch. No female at the time of embryo hatching is in the intermolt. Both ovarian index and total ovarian proteins gradually increase from the intermolt stage C1 to C3, thereupon maintaining the same level up to spawning. In continuously reproducing females (size class 23–33-mm CL), the hemolymph protein level is also high during the entire intermolt period, but increases sharply during premolt stage with a drastic decline just before ecdysis. Furthermore, hemolymph protein of both immature females (size class 10–17-mm CL) as well as females in the first maturation (18–22-mm CL) sharply rises during premolt stages (D0–D2), with an ensuing decline in stage D3–4. Evidently, the changes in the total hemolymph protein reflect on its role in vitellogenesis as well as new cuticle synthesis. Whereas the protein rise during the intermolt stage is coincident to the active vitellogenic phase, the second ramp in the increase of hemolymph protein during premolt stage may be related to new cuticle synthesis. A common endocrine basis of such a synchronous molting and ovarian cycle in Emerita is evident, but a substantial nutritional status, owing to filter-feeding habit of the sand crab, is attributed to the year-round reproduction and molting.

Affiliations: 1: a Unit of Invertebrate Reproduction, Department of Zoology, University of Madras (Guindy Campus), Chennai (Madras) 600 025, India


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