Methyl farnesoate induced ovarian maturation in the spider crab,Libinia emarginata
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To overcome the problem of getting crustaceans to reproduce in captivity, eyestalk ablation or X-organ sinus gland removal is commonly utilized in commercially important species such as shrimp. We have investigated the effect of unilateral and bilateral eyestalk ablation on methyl farnesoate (MF) production by mandibular organs (MOs) and on ovarian maturation in female spider crabs Libinia emarginata, a useful model since these animals are in a terminal molt and are devoid of a functional Y-organ. Non-reproductive, over-wintering female L. emarginata were induced to be reproductive by feeding and increasing the holding temperature to stimulate the endocrine system. In addition, we removed X-organ sinus glands by eyestalk ablation either unilaterally (UEA) or bilaterally (BEA) to further stimulate MF synthesis by MOs. Endogenous MF in the hemolymph was extracted and quantified by means of HPLC and in some cases by GC/MS. Oocyte growth and egg quality were studied simultaneously to determine how they were related to MF levels found during vitellogenesis. The initial MF concentration in unablated controls was low, 0.31 ng/ml of hemolymph, and this increased (p < 0.05) to about 1 ng/ml by 2 weeks, remaining at about that level for the remainder of the experiment. Eyestalk ablation significantly stimulated MF concentrations by week 1 to nearly 2 and 3.5 ng/ml in the UEA (p < 0.01) and BEA (p < 0.001) animals, respectively. Oocytes appeared to respond to increased MF levels, as ovarian maturation was initiated from the point at which MF increased (p < 0.05). Thereafter, the rate of oocyte growth was directly correlated with the extent of elevation of MF. The gonado-somatic index [(GSI) = gonad weight/body weight x 100] of controls at the start was about 1.5 and increased to 6.5 by week 4. Mature oocytes were reached at a GSI around 7. Oocyte maturation was accomplished at week 2 in BEA, week 3 in UEA, and later than week 4 in controls. After maturation, oocytes started to degrade in some ablated animals, particularly in the bilaterally ablated ones where the highest MF concentrations were observed. These data indicate that MF elevations are required for stimulating ovarian maturation in Crustacea. MF appears to accelerate gonad development during the vitellogenic process, but may be deleterious at high concentrations. These results have a significant and important application and implications for aquaculture.