African Zoology

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Tidal exchange of larvae of Sesarma catenata (Decapoda, Brachyura) in the Swartkops estuary, South Africa

R Pereyra Lago


The tidal exchange of larvae of the salt-marsh grapsid crab Sesarma catenata was studied in the Swartkops estuary, a tidally driven, shallow estuary in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Plankton samples were collected bimonlhly during spring and neap tides from October to March at the tidal inlet. Samples were collected hourly for 25 h in February, and for 13 h in all other months. Hourly estimates of water flux through the tidal inlet of lhe esluary were calculaled using a generalized one-dimensional hydrodynamic model calibrated for lhe Swartkops estuary. Water flux estimates were used to calculate larval flux through the tidal inlet, Zoea I larvae of Sesarma catenata were found in all sampling sessions, with highest abundance during nocturnal ebb tides. Two seasonal peaks of abundance were detected in November and February-March. These coincided with recorded peaks of percentage abundance of gravid females in the adult population. Megalopa larvae were recorded mainly during flood tides from January to March. More than 70 % of all Sesarma catenata larvae moving through the tidal inlet of the Swartkops estuary in either direction were exported in any given sampling session. There was net export of zoea l larvae in all cases but one, and net import of megalopa larvae in all cases. The possibility that Sesarma catenata larvae may become entrapped in lhe surf zone circulation system throughout development, as a mechanism to avoid offshore dispersal, is discussed.

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