Blue crabs Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, 1896 support large commercial and recreational fisheries along the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Female blue crabs are traditionally believed to produce one to six broods in their lifetime. However, recent evidence has shown that females have the ability to spawn up to eight broods in a single spawning season, with as many as 18 broods over their lifespan. In this study, fecundity and egg diameter were examined by brood class (primiparous, multiparous) in the spring and summer/fall. Mean carapace width of females was significantly different between brood class and season, with the largest females in the spring. There was a positive relationship between fecundity and carapace width. Although primiparous spring females were the most fecund (3.2 ± 1.5 million eggs), no statistically significant differences in fecundity by brood class and season were found. Loss of eggs occurred during embryonic development; primiparous females lost ∼0.9 million eggs whereas multiparous females lost ∼0.1 million. Egg diameter and carapace width of the female were positively correlated. There was no difference in egg diameter between brood classes, but eggs were 9.9% larger in diameter during the spring than summer/fall. There was an inverse relationship between fecundity and egg diameter. Seasonality appeared to play an important role in the reproductive life history of blue crabs in the northern GOM. Larger crabs and larger eggs in the spring may be related to quality and quantity of available food and temperature conditions for optimal growth.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1