Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (Gulf of Mexico) -- blue crab.




Perry, H.M.
McIlwain, T.D.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; National Coastal Ecosystems Team, Research and Development, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Dept. of Interior


Species profiles are summaries of the literature on taxonomy, morphology, range, life history, and environmental requirements of coastal aquatic species. They are designed to assist in environmental impact assessment. The blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, is common in tidal marsh estuaries and coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, occupying a variety of habitats depending upon the physiological requirements of each particular stage in its life history. Spawning occurs from spring through fall in high salinity estuarine and/or coastal waters. Development through the 7 zoeal stages requires approximately 31 days and occurs offshore. The megalopal stage is usually completed within a week. Recruitment to the estuary occurs during the megalopal stage. Molt to the first crab takes place within the estuary. Juveniles exhibit wide seasonal and areal distribution. Growth is rapid and blue crabs in the Gulf of Mexico may reach maturity within a year. Factors affecting growth and survival include food availability, predation, substratum, available habitat, temperature, salinity, and pollutants. Blue crabs do not conform to specific trophic levels and are characterized as opportunistic benthic omnivores. Their diverse feeding habits and their importance as prey species for a variety of organisms make them an integral part of coastal ecosystems.


21 pgs.


blue crab, crabs, estuaries, fisheries, life history, environmental factors, spawning, growth, feeding, callinectes, gulf coast, coastal ecology