The bopyrid isopod Probopyrus pandalicola is a hematophagous ectoparasite that sexually sterilizes some palaemonid shrimps, including female daggerblade grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio. The reproduction of parasitic isopods is thought to occur synchronously with host molting because the brood would be unsuccessful if molting occurred before the larvae were free swimming. Temperature affects the length of the molting cycle of shrimp, and therefore may also affect the incubation time of isopod broods. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effect of temperature on brood development of the parasite and on the degree of synchronization with the molting of its host. Parasitized P. pugio were monitored daily at 2 experimental temperatures, 23 and 15 C, in temperature-controlled chambers for the duration of a full parasite reproductive cycle. Developmental stage was determined by the visible coloration of the brood through the exoskeleton of the host, and was designated as egg, embryo I, embryo II, or epicaridium larvae. Temperature significantly affected median brood incubation time, which was only 11 days at 23 C, as compared to 35 days at 15 C. The final developmental stage (epicaridium larvae) was 3 times shorter at 23 C (median 3 days; n = 45) than at 15 C (median 9 days; n = 15). Temperature significantly affected the intermolt period of parasitized shrimp, which was shorter at 23 C (median 12 days) than at 15 C (median 37 days). A smaller percentage of the intermolt period elapsed between larval release and shrimp molting at 23 C (0.0%) than at 15 C (3.1%), indicating closer synchronization between host molting and parasite reproduction at the warmer temperature. At 15 C, the isopods utilized a smaller proportion of the time that was available for brood incubation during the intermolt period of their host. Brood size ranged from 391 to 4,596 young and was positively correlated with parasite and host size. Because development progressed more rapidly at 23 C, warmer temperatures could increase the prevalence of P. pandalicola. The corresponding reduction in the abundance of ovigerous grass shrimp as a result of sexual sterilization by bopyrids could adversely impact estuarine ecosystems, as grass shrimp are a crucial link in transferring energy from detritus to secondary consumers.
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