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Free Content Transport of blue crab larvae in the Middle Atlantic Bight: A wet and windy journey

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This paper describes the 25-year evolution of a program of research into the larval ecology of the Atlantic blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) near the mouth of Delaware Bay on the east coast of the USA (38.5N, 75.1W). The investigation began as a biological study; eventually incorporated a physical component; and finally added a mathematical modeling aspect. Early work was strictly biological and demonstrated that C. sapidus larvae are exported from the estuary to the adjacent coastal ocean where larval development occurs. Once this fact was established, it was clear that further progress demanded an understanding of shelf circulation. The consequent program of integrated biological and physical sampling was unique for its era and demonstrated a physical mechanism for retention of larvae on the inner shelf. Subsequent work explained the transport of larvae across-shelf and back to the estuary where benthic nursery habitat is located. This phase of the project was codified in a conceptual model that provided plausible mechanisms for these transport processes. The past dozen years have incorporated a more sophisticated biological approach where the temporal and spatial scales of sampling are better matched to the relevant physical processes. These improvements have allowed the quantification of larval-patch dynamics and the discovery of coastal null zones where larvae are retained near the natal estuary. The most recent phase of the project includes the continued development of mathematical models from simple empirical formulations to coupled hydrodynamic/tracking models that more accurately simulate the relevant physical and biological processes. This work has yielded a set of conceptual and physical models for larval transport that are among the most highly developed for any species of fish or invertebrate.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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