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Marine Biology

, 166:146 | Cite as

Role of gamete limitation in the occurrence of ‘abnormal early clutches’ on female American lobster, Homarus americanus, in eastern Canada

  • Feng TangEmail author
  • Bernard Sainte-Marie
  • Julien Gaudette
  • Rémy Rochette
Original Paper

Abstract

A large-scale survey in 2011–2014 found that ovigerous female American lobsters, Homarus americanus, carrying “abnormal” early clutches (< 50% of abdomen covered by eggs) were ubiquitous in eastern Canada. This could be caused by reduced production of oocytes, or insufficient sperm to fertilize all oocytes produced. To address the oocyte limitation hypothesis, ovarian fecundity was assessed in 343 pre-spawn females and clutch fecundity in 169 post-spawn females sampled from ten sites across eastern Canada in May and June 2014. All females produced and spawned enough oocytes to form a full clutch, thus invalidating the oocyte limitation hypothesis. To address the sperm limitation hypothesis, the prevalence of different “types” of sperm plug in the seminal receptacle of 1735 wild-mated, pre-spawn or ovigerous females was surveyed in July–August 2014 and 2015, and the effect of sperm plug type on fecundity/fertility was examined in 60 wild-mated, laboratory-spawning females beginning in July 2014. Among the pre-spawn wild-mated females, 88.3% had a hard plug, 5.9% a soft plug and 5.8% no plug. These sperm plug types corresponded to sharply decreasing amounts of stored semen/sperm in post-spawn females. In the laboratory, 11 of 20 females with no plug produced a full clutch that became “abnormal” through egg loss or was completely dropped within 2 weeks of spawning. Thus, sperm limitation is one likely cause of abnormal early clutches on female American lobster, which may be occasioned by fishery-induced reductions in male reproductive potential and/or density-dependent processes occurring at currently high population levels.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the lobster harvesters from numerous industry associations who raised concern over the production of abnormal clutches by female American lobsters on their fishing grounds and enabled the extensive collection of samples throughout eastern Canada that made this project possible. We would also like to thank the students and staff in the Rochette laboratory for assisting in the field and in the laboratory. Comments from Marthe Haarr, Heather Hunt, Jeff Houlahan and the three anonymous reviewers greatly improved this manuscript. This project was funded by grants to R. Rochette from the Lobster Node of the NSERC Canadian Fisheries Research Network. F. Tang was funded by a NSERC CGS M (Grant no. CGSM-444848-2013).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical standards

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study were followed and all necessary approvals were obtained.

Supplementary material

227_2019_3585_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (259 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 259 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New Brunswick Saint JohnSaint JohnCanada
  2. 2.Institut Maurice-Lamontagne, Pêches et Océans CanadaMont-JoliCanada
  3. 3.Department of Fisheries and OceansSaint Andrews Biological StationSaint AndrewsCanada

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