THE DISTRIBUTION OF CALLINECTES SAPIDUS MEGALOPAE AT THE MOUTHS OF CHESAPEAKE AND DELAWARE BAYS: IMPLICATIONS FOR LARVAL INGRESS
Biermann, Jeffery Lee
North, Elizabeth W
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Transport of Callinectes sapidus (blue crab) megalopae from the continental shelf into estuaries may influence recruitment variability of this economically important species. This research seeks to determine the vertical distribution of C. sapidus megalopae near the mouths of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and thereby infer swimming behaviors that may influence ingress to these estuaries. Megalopae and physical conditions were sampled at locations from ~10 km inshore of the estuary mouths to ~40 km offshore in coastal shelf waters in September 2005 and 2006. Megalopae were present in greater abundance and at shallower depths during night compared to day at all locations, suggesting a diurnal effect on distribution within the estuary and on the continental shelf. Unlike previous studies, offshore distributions did not indicate surface oriented behavior. Within the mouth of Delaware Bay, limited evidence suggests that megalopae presence in the upper portion of the water column increases in response to nocturnal flood tides. Results suggest photoinhibited swimming near the mouths of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. In context of previous laboratory studies, these findings indicate that estuarine chemical cues at very low concentrations may induce changes in megalopae behaviors and stimulate molting at least 40 km offshore of estuarine mouths. Results suggest wind-forcing and density-induced subtidal flow are more likely mechanisms for ingress to Chesapeake and Delaware Bays than tidal-transport.