Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 1049–1067 | Cite as

A Long-Term Study of Spawning Activity in a Florida Gulf Coast Population of Horseshoe Crabs (Limulus polyphemus)

Article

Abstract

Populations of the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) differ in broad areas of their biology. We observed a non-harvested, marked Florida Gulf coast population during their spring spawning (March–May) in 11 years across a 17-year period (1992–2009). Long-term changes occurred in the number of spawning pairs: the population was stable from 1992 to 2000 but increased markedly after 2000. Short-term variation in numbers of spawning pairs, unpaired females, unpaired males, and operational sex ratios was explained by changes over the season and during each week of spring tides and by differences in actual (not predicted) maximum high tide height. Wind direction strongly affected tidal inundation and the number of spawning horseshoe crabs. Tagging individuals revealed that females returned to the nesting beach less often than males and most females were re-sighted only within 1 week of spring tides. No animals were seen across more than 6 years. Implications for management are discussed.

Keywords

Limulus polyphemus Horseshoe crab Florida population Spawning numbers Operational sex ratio 

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Centre for Reproduction and Genomics, Department of Anatomy and Structural BiologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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