Regional Euro-Asian Biological Invasions Centre (REABIC)
Invasive marine crustaceans can exhibit population-level variation in reproductive traits that are consistent with a response to stressful conditions near the range edge, or alternatively, that may favor establishing new exotic populations. Reproductive characteristics of the green porcelain crab Petrolisthes armatus Gibbes, 1850 were not previously known in its invasive range in the Atlantic waters of the southeastern USA. We compared fecundity estimates, size at sexual maturity, and various other morphological aspects among crabs collected from two sites at each of four locations spanning approximately 230 km from North Inlet, South Carolina (SC), to Savannah, Georgia (GA), USA. Reproductive output and smallest ovigerous female sizes within the invaded range also were compared to those in the native range, which extends from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean to Brazil in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Reproductive output and egg number were higher and female size at maturity was smaller for crabs from more northern locations (North Inlet and Charleston, SC). Crabs were sexually dimorphic, but population-level differences in overall morphology (e.g., dimensions of the carapace, chelipeds, and secondary sexual characteristics) were not evident in two populations examined (North Inlet, SC, and Bluffton, SC). Secondary sexual characteristics (i.e., abdomen length, abdomen width and pleopod length) contributed the most to the morphological differences between males and females. Using allometric methods, size at sexual maturity was estimated to be 3.99 mm carapace width (CW) for males at North Inlet and 2.96 mm CW for males at Bluffton. Minimum sizes of ovigerous females at our study sites were smaller (3.0 mm to 4.2 mm CW) than a published value for a native population (4.0 mm CW). Reproductive output also was higher in the introduced range (0.05–0.11) than in native populations (0.03–0.07). Along a latitudinal gradient at the northern extent of the invaded range, females allocated more energy to producing offspring at range-edge locations. These results indicate that both within the introduced range and compared to the native range, P. armatus exhibits considerable variation in reproductive performance, which may have assisted in the species′ successful invasion and may aid the species in continuing its range expansion.
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