The reproductive traits of three coastal grapsoid crabs from the southwestern Atlantic, Neohelice granulata (Dana, 1851), Cyrtograpsus angulatus Dana, 1851 and C. altimanus Rathbun, 1914, were compared under the hypothesis that more energy is diverted to maintenance (and less to reproduction) in the upper intertidal and/or in estuaries than in the lower marine intertidal or subtidal, in order to cope with the harsh, and frequently variable, environmental conditions of semiterrestrial and brackish water habitats. Each species occupies a different habitat along intertidal, as well as estuarine gradients: N. granulata lives in the upper and middle intertidal of salt marshes and mud flats, especially in estuarine waters; C. angulatus lives in the low intertidal and subtidal of estuarine and marine habitats, and C. altimanus is predominantly an intertidal and subtidal marine crab. Results suggested that energy demands imposed by the harsh environmental conditions of the estuarine and semiterrestrial habitats resulted in less energy available for reproduction in N. granulata, evidenced by a shorter breeding season, a reduced reproductive output per clutch and an increased clutch interval. The opposite occurred with C. altimanus: less energy was necessary to cope with the stable marine water, allowing the presence of a long breeding season, a higher reproductive output per clutch and a very short clutch interval. Differences observed between marine and estuarine populations of C. angulatus are comparable with differences between C. altimanus, and N. granulata.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1