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An Investigation of the Sources of Variability in American Lobster (Homarus Americanus) Eggs and Larvae: Female Size and Reproductive Status, and Interannual and Interpopulation Comparisons

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Abstract From 1997 to 2001, the effects of female size (cephalothorax length [CL]) and reproductive status on egg size (diameter, dry weight) and larva CL at hatching were investigated in two Homarus americanus populations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Anticosti) and one at Grand Manan (Bay of Fundy), Canada. The estimated size at 50% maturity was used to identify small (likely primiparous) females for each population. Multifactor, mixed-hierarchical ANOVA models were used to investigate the variability of eggs and stage I CL among years and populations. In all comparisons, the main source of variability in the egg and stage I larva size was females (within and among). Nevertheless, for the Îles-de-la-Madeleine population in each year except 2001, the mean stage I larva sizes from small (CL < 79 mm), probably primiparous females were significantly smaller (P < 0.0085) than the mean larva sizes from larger females. However, female CL per se explained very little of the variance in mean larval size at hatching (r 2 = 0.23, P < 0.05 and r 2 = 0.12, P = 0.22 in 2000 and 2001, respectively, when the entire size range of reproductive females was considered). Hatching larvae tend to be smaller in primiparous females or females maturing at a small size; however, over the entire size range of reproductive females, larval size at hatching is almost independent of female size (CL). It is as if, above a minimum viable size, there is a constant small range of egg/larval sizes produced in H. americanus. Conservation measures dealing with the imposition of a minimum legal size may be a means of increasing the number of females that will spawn at least once or twice within a population. However, the impacts of first-time spawning on quality of eggs and larvae need to be fully investigated to assess the response of the population's egg production and recruitment potential of this measure.

Affiliations: 1: a (PO, correspondence) Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Maurice Lamontagne Institute, 850 route de la mer, Mont-Joli (Québec) Canada G5H 3Z4 (; ; 2: b (FP) Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Gulf Fisheries Centre, 343 University Avenue, Moncton (New Brunswick) Canada E1C 9B6


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