Marine Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 75–85 | Cite as

The biology of the blue manna crab Portunus pelagicus in an Australian estuary

  • I. C. Potter
  • P. J. Chrystal
  • N. R. Loneragan


Various aspects of the biology of the blue manna crab Portunus pelagicus have been investigated in the large Peel-Harvey estuarine system of Western Australia, using samples collected regularly by beach seine, gill net and otter trawl between February 1980 and July 1981. Whereas crabs were widely dispersed throughout Peel Inlet, Harvey Estuary and the saline regions of tributary rivers during the summer and autumn, they were found mainly near the estuary mouth in the winter and spring. Since our data suggest that P. pelagicus has a preference for salinities of 30 to 40‰, the above changes in distribution are apparently related to the marked seasonal variation in salinity which results from the very seasonal pattern of rainfall. The number of ovigerous crabs in the estuary were greatest in January and February. The mean carapace width and number of eggs of ovigerous females were 110 mm (range 85 to 157 mm) and 509 433 (range 270 183 to 847 980), respectively. P. pelagicus started to reach the minimum legal size for capture (carapace width 127 mm) in the summer when they were approximately I yr old, and left the system in large numbers in the following winter when they were 15 to 20 mo old. These features explain why the fishery for P. pelagicus is highly seasonal, with the vast majority of crabs being taken between January and May. As crabs approached the end of their first year of life, the ratio of females began to exceed that of males, apparently as a result of the movement of males out of the system and legislation against the capture of ovigerous females.


Beach Seasonal Variation Seasonal Pattern Estuarine System Carapace Width 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. C. Potter
    • 1
  • P. J. Chrystal
    • 1
  • N. R. Loneragan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental and Life SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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