To evaluate the suitability of using coded microwire tags (CWTs) to mark early-benthic-stage Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, we compared the survival, growth, and feeding of tagged and untagged lobsters held in the laboratory through the first five juvenile molts. We also examined the growth of 65 microwire-tagged lobsters released into the wild as early-benthic-stage juveniles. Tag retention rates of lobsters held in the laboratory were 86% for those tagged as first-stage juveniles and 96% for those tagged as second-stage juveniles; virtually all tag loss was confined to the first post-tag molt. Survival and growth rates of tagged second-stage juveniles in the laboratory did not significantly differ from those of untagged lobsters, but first-stage-tagged juveniles had lower growth rates than untagged lobsters did and a 25% post-tagging mortality rate. The mean growth rate of juveniles released into the wild was 0.82 mm CL/wk, but growth differed by season; no sex- or habitat-specific differences in growth were observed. Data obtained from these recaptured lobsters provide the first detailed estimates of growth of P. argus under natural conditions during the earliest part of their benthic life and illustrate the potential usefulness of coded microwire tags in mark-recapture investigations of juveniles for this and other species.
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Vol. 20 • No. 3