Factors affecting the recruitment of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters dwelling in macroalgae
In south Florida, Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) settle and spend their first few months in macroalgae or seagrass. After a few months, these "algal-phase" juveniles emerge from vegetation and, as "postalgal-phase" juveniles, seek refuge in crevices, often dwelling in groups. The importance of crevice shelters in determining the abundance of postalgal-phase juvenile spiny lobsters has been studied, but we know little about the processes affecting lobster distribution and survival during their cryptic algal-dwelling phase. We found that postlarval supply varied independently of changes in the structure of macroalgal settlement habitat. For this reason, postlarval supply alone can not reliably predict local settlement density. Changes in the size of macroalgal patches in particular tend to increase the variability in settlement density among locations and times. Field and mesocosm experiments indicate that social interactions and individual movements are unlikely to alter the general distribution of algal-phase lobsters established at settlement. But if algal-phase lobsters are aggregated at scales <1 m2 (e.g., due to patchy settlement), they experience higher mortality than non-aggregated lobsters, as revealed in field experiments where lobsters were tethered alone or in pairs and at varying inter-individual distances. Field manipulations of settlement density indicate that recapture (survival) of microwire tagged algal-phase juveniles is positively associated with features of the habitat that affect lobster density (e.g., site area, macroalgal patch size), but survival and growth of lobsters are unrelated to artificially manipulated settlement density. Collectively, these results imply that the population dynamics of juvenile P. argus dwelling in macroalgae are not typically regulated by density-dependent processes, although density-dependent predation may be locally important in patches when settlement is episodically high.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1997-07-01
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