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Influence of environmental factors and female size on reproductive output in an invasive temperate marine gastropod Rapana venosa (Muricidae)

Abstract

Life history and reproductive strategies influence population dynamics at the inter- and intra-specific level. Environmental conditions suitable for gonad development and spawning, the reproductive range, may be a smaller portion of the broader species distribution. The only known breeding population of veined rapa whelks (Rapana venosa) in North America is in Chesapeake Bay, USA. There is considerable interest in the potential reproductive range of this non-indigenous species given the rapa whelk’s negative impacts on commercial shellfish species in both its native and introduced ranges. Weight-specific reproductive output is described for wild caught Chesapeake Bay rapa whelks maintained in flow-through mesocosms for 2 years. Measured reproductive output within and between egg capsule deposition seasons (years) in relation to water temperature, salinity, daylength, and female size is used to describe the rapa whelk’s reproductive range. Egg capsule production is influenced by seasonal and absolute water temperatures as well as seasonal daylength cycles. Egg capsule deposition by Chesapeake Bay rapa whelks begins at water temperatures of approximately 18°C and continues for 11–15 weeks. Forty to 70% of female whelks deposited egg capsules in most weeks during this season, producing 150–200 egg capsules female−1 week−1. Water temperatures >28°C caused reduced egg capsule production relative to temperatures of 20–25°C. Egg capsule production was positively related to seasonal changes in daylength, and two peaks of egg capsule deposition were observed in the 2001 and 2002 deposition seasons. The combination of declining daylength and higher water temperatures in late summer was associated with the cessation of egg capsule deposition. A lower average weight specific reproductive output in 130–145 mm SL rapa whelks (average 12 ± 1%) than in 90–106 mm SL rapa whelks (average 22 ± 1% of body weight) may reflect a life history that balances the physiological costs of maintaining a large body mass with the production of many planktonic larvae from multiple clutches of egg capsules per breeding season over a 10–15-year lifespan. Estimates of the cumulative day-degree requirements corresponding to the annual initiation of egg capsule deposition were 238 and 236 for 2001 and 2002, respectively. Reproductive output and day-degree requirements for Chesapeake Bay rapa whelks were similar to values calculated from previous studies of native muricids (Eupleura caudata and Urosalpinx cinerea). A latitudinal range of 30–41° (N and S) is predicted as the realized reproductive range for rapa whelk populations on the basis of the day-degree requirements for native whelks and reproductively active invasive rapa whelk populations.

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Acknowledgments

Support for this project was provided by the NOAA/National Sea Grant Aquatic Nuisance Species Research and Outreach Program (NA96RG0025/5-29456), Virginia Sea Grant (R/MG-98-3), and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Department of Fisheries Science. Special thanks are extended to all of the local citizens, watermen, and seafood processors that have donated rapa whelks to our research program. P. Crewe, K. Farnsworth, S. Goodbred, C. Goodbred, S. Haywood, R. Howlett, E. Jestel, D. Kerstetter, M. Mann, K. Mann, M. Southworth, C. Tomlinson, and E. Westcott assisted with local whelk collection. M. Southworth, R. Howlett, and E. Westcott assisted with data collection in the laboratory. Dr. J. Grassle provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This is Contribution number 2958 from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

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Correspondence to Juliana M. Harding.

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Communicated by J.P. Grassle.

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Harding, J.M., Mann, R. & Kilduff, C.W. Influence of environmental factors and female size on reproductive output in an invasive temperate marine gastropod Rapana venosa (Muricidae). Mar Biol 155, 571–581 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-008-1044-6

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Keywords

  • Reproductive Output
  • Oyster Drill
  • Rapa Whelk
  • Direct Development Strategy
  • Urosalpinx Cinerea