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Free Content Patterns of Limb Loss in the Blue Crab, Callinectes Sapidus Rathbun, and the Effects of Autotomy on Growth

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A substantial proportion of the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun) population in a subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay was either missing or regenerating at least one limb in 1986 (24.8%) and 1987 (18.8%). Most crabs were missing a single cheliped; loss of four or more limbs was rare. Between June and November 1987, laboratory experiments were conducted in which one cheliped or both chelipeds and two pereopods were removed from blue crabs to examine the long-term effect of autotomy on growth and molting frequency. Crabs with all appendages intact served as controls. Loss of a single cheliped did not alter the molt increment, percent wet weight increase, or molting frequency of crabs compared to animals experiencing no limb loss. Multiple limb loss, however, significantly reduced the molt increment and percent weight increase in the first post-autotomy molt but did not affect the duration of the intermolt. By the second molt following autotomy, molt increments for crabs missing four limbs did not differ significantly from those of intact or singly autotomized animals. Regenerating limbs were 85-88% of the lengths of undamaged, contralateral limbs in the first molt following autotomy. Up to three molts were required to regenerate 100% of the contralateral limb length. Removal of the major, crusher cheliped in both single and multiple autotomy treatments resulted in crabs possessing two minor, cutter claws after regeneration. Crabs failed to regenerate a distinct crusher even after three molts following autotomy. Although multiple autotomy reduced the molt increment in laboratory experiments, the rarity of severe limb loss in the Rhode River indicates that growth in the population is not affected greatly by autotomy.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1990-01-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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