, Volume 114, Issue 1, pp 109-117

Population characteristics of the deep-sea lobsters Polycheles typhlops and Stereomastis sculpta (Decapoda: Polychelidae) in a bathyal mud community of the Mediterranean Sea

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Abstract

Distribution and abundance as a function of depth, and population parameters such as sex and size structure of the population and aspects of reproductive biology have been studied in the deep-sea polychelid lobsters Polycheles typhlops and Stereomastis sculpta. Samples were taken by otter trawl in the Balearic Sea, a deepsea basin in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea from 1985 to 1989. In both species the largest size classes were dominated by females. In S. sculpta, male and female sizes were very similar. In P. typhlops, ovigerous females and those with external spermatophores were ≥23 and 25 mm in carapace length (CL), respectively; males with external spermatophores were ≥17 mm in CL. In S. sculpta, ovigerous females and those with external spermatophores were ≥24 and ≥19 mm CL, respectively, and males with external spermatophores ≥19 mm CL. Highest densities of P. typhlops occurred along the middle slope at depths between 500 and 1000 m. Only small-sized individuals were found at the deepest depths sampled; some recruitment must therefore occur in waters much deeper than those usually inhabited by the adult population. The sex-ratio was 1:1 in most samples, but in some of the shallowest samples females predominated. The depth distribution range of S. sculpta was 981 to 2253 m: densities clearly increased with increasing depth. There were no apparent variations in size distribution as a function of depth. Since very few adult males and females were captured, the population in the survey area would seem to be comprised mainly of juveniles. As a function of depth, females were numerically dominant only in some of the shallowest samples taken in the distribution range of this species. There is strict habitat partitioning between the two species. In both species, the variation in the sex-ratio as a function of depth suggests differential migration between the sexes, probably related to egg incubation and hatching.

Communicated by J. M. Pérès, Marseille