Bait-subsidized diets and their effects on ovigerous North American lobsters (Homarus americanus)
Ovigerous American lobsters (Homarus americanus) display a protracted period of ovary maturation and maternal care when incubating their eggs, potentially influencing offspring fitness. Lobsters consume a wide range of food items; however, trap bait may comprise a larger proportion of their diet in some fished areas compared to non-fished areas, and the long-term consequences of a bait-based diet remain largely unexplored in lobsters. We tested the hypothesis that disproportionate amounts of bait in the diets of pre-ovigerous females affect the quality of their ovaries and eggs. We held pre-ovigerous lobsters (n = 29) over a period of ~ 300 days (range = 270–378) and fed them diets of herring bait, natural prey items (crab, mussel, urchin, macroalgae), or a combination of both diet types. Nutritional status, measured as biweekly blood indices and total glucose levels, suggest differences between lobsters fed a natural or combination diet and lobsters fed a bait-based diet (ANOVA; P < 0.05). We found that bait diets contained more protein (58.5%) and lipids (31.6%) compared to natural diets (34.5 and 13.2%, respectively) and lipid levels in ovaries and eggs significantly correlated with each other for all treatments (r = 0.76, n = 15, P = 0.028). Histopathological analysis indicates that ovaries contained more variable maturation in starved lobsters or those fed with bait, with some animals showing delayed gonad maturation. Results suggest that a varied diet promotes the overall fitness of ovigerous lobsters and the associated reserves that are used for ovarian development and subsequent oocyte formation.
KeywordsMaternal effects Ovigerous lobsters Egg lipids Atlantic herring
We thank Nancy Whitehouse (UNH, Dairy Research Center) who helped with the nutritional analyses as well as provided laboratory equipment for processing samples, and the encouragement and support from Prof. Win Watson. Thanks to several lobstermen from New Hampshire for their help in collecting live lobsters for this study. We appreciate the help from Tracy Pugh, Kate Masury, and Audra Chaput who all assisted in weekly feedings, sampling, and general maintenance throughout the study. Nathan Rennels and Noel Carlson of the UNH Coastal Marine Laboratory helped coordinate logistics and space.
This research was supported from grants awarded to JSG from the UNH Marine Program and a Lerner-Gray Fund for Marine Research (American Museum of Natural History).
Compliance with ethical standards
All lobsters were collected and held in accordance with NHFG permits MFD0920 and MFD1016 issued to the University of New Hampshire.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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