Fecundity and spawning of the Atlantic horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, in Pleasant Bay, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • This study provided the first comprehensive analysis of Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) fecundity. Limulus appear to be determinate spawners, maturing all their eggs for the breeding season before spawning begins. On average, larger females held a larger number of eggs (63,500) than smaller females (14,500). By the end of the breeding season there was an average of 11,600 mature eggs female-1 left undeposited, regardless of female size. Larger females laid a higher percentage of the eggs they contained. Thus they not only contain more eggs, but are more effective at laying them as well. Size of spawning females ranged from about 185-300 mm prosomal width, with by far the highest concentration in the mid-size ranges. Although on an individual basis large females carry and lay the greatest number of eggs, mid-size crabs as a group contributed more to the horseshoe crab population in Pleasant Bay because they were more plentiful (net fecundity was highest for mid-size crabs). These results have implications for the management of this important species, which is harvested for bait, scientific, and biomedical uses. Incorporation of these results into models and other management tools can help predict growth rates, effects of size-selective harvest, reproductive value, and stable stage distribution of populations.

publication date

  • March 2006