The Influence of Behavior and Hydrodynamics on the Dispersal of Dungeness Crab, Cancer magister, Larvae
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The Dungeness crab fishery is the most economically important on the West Coast; however, it has experienced dramatic fluctuations in annual catch. Previous research has shown the annual catch of megalopae is correlated with the commercial catch. The catch of megalopae is correlated with the phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the day of the year of the spring transition and the amount of upwelling following the spring transition. Further, the daily catch of megalopae is correlated with the internal tide. We developed individual based models of Dungeness crab dispersal, which we validated with results from a light trap. We demonstrated that the retention of larvae in the California Current is enhanced during negative phase PDOs. Further, we suggest that larvae migrate to or almost to the bottom each day. Specifically, megalopae exhibit a twilight vertical migration off of the continental shelf and remain in the neuston on the continental shelf. This concentrates megalopae at the continental shelf break. We also observed megalopae in situ and demonstrated that they swim in the neuston with the surface current at speeds of ~ 10 cm s-1. Using these results and data from a mooring, we demonstrated that this behavior would increase the distance internal waves would transport larvae. We analyzed mooring data and suggest that catch of megalopae is greater when the thermocline is deep and weak and there is less horizontal shear. We hypothesize this allows internal waves to remain coherent longer on the continental shelf. We show that the spring transition coincides with a shallowing of the thermocline, which would ultimately lead to the development of internal waves of depression rather than elevation. We hypothesize that the change in surface flow, based on whether the wave is one of elevation or depression, explains why most megalopae are caught following the spring transition. In general, these findings help us better understand the dispersal of Dungeness crabs. We suggest the dispersal patterns support Michael Sinclair’s member vagrant hypothesis. Further, we suggest these findings apply to many of the continental shelf species in the California Current. This dissertation includes both published and unpublished co-authored materials.