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Lobster movements in an estuary

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The extent to which the American lobster, Homarus americanus (H. Milne-Edwards), utilizes estuarine habitats is poorly understood. From 1989 to 1991 we examined lobster movements in and around the Great Bay estuary, New Hampshire using tag/recapture and ultrasonic telemetry. A total of 1212 lobsters were tagged and recaptured at sites ranging from the middle of Great Bay, 23.0 km from the coast, to Isles of Shoals, 11.2 km offshore. Twenty-six lobsters equipped with ultrasonic transmitters were tracked for periods ranging from 2 weeks to >1 year. Most lobsters moved <5 km toward the coast, with those furthest inland moving the greatest distance. Lobsters with transmitters moved in a sporadic fashion, with residency in one area for 2 to 4 weeks alternating with rapid movement to a new location (mean velocity = 0.3 km d−1, 1.8 km d−1 max.). Site of release influenced distance moved, but there was no significant relationship between lobster size and distance traveled, days at large, or rate of movement. Most movement into the estuary occurred in the spring, while during the remainder of the year there was a strong tendency to move downriver, toward the coast. These seasonal migrations of estuarine lobsters may enhance their growth and survival by enabling them to avoid low salinity events in the spring and fall, and to accelerate their growth in warmer estuarine waters during the summer.

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Received: 26 January 1996 / Accepted: 22 January 1999

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Watson III, W., Vetrovs, A. & Howell, W. Lobster movements in an estuary. Marine Biology 134, 65–75 (1999).

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