Variation in age and size at maturation in two benthic crustaceans in the Gulf of Bothnia

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: The thesis deals with variation in age and size at maturation in Saduria entomon and Pontoporeia affinis along a depth gradient in the Gulf of Bothnia, Sweden. I have analysed at what sizes and ages animals should mature in relation to growth and mortality conditions. The thesis also deals with predator-prey interactions within and between the two species.The isopod Saduria entomon matured during winter at an age of three years at 5 m depth in the Norrby archipelago (63° 30'N, 19° 50'E). Males matured eariier and at larger sizes (27-48 mm) than females (23-36 mm). The offspring were released in early summer. The adult size increased with increasing depth. Outside the archipelago, at 125 m depth, the sexes reached a size of 84 and 54 mm respectively. No evidence for temporal restriction in the release of the young was found at the deep area. The species was shown to have a high capacity for cannibalism on small conspecifics, although the small ones have the potential to avoid aggregations of large conspecifics. The number of small conspecifics eaten was related both to the absolute and relative densities of the alternative prey Pontoporeia affinis. The cannibalistic behaviour have the potential to act as a stabilizing mechanism in the Saduria-Pontoporeia system. Fourhom sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis) was the fish species of utmost importance as a predator on S.entomon, and it mainly preferred large specimens.The amphipod Pontoporeia affinis matured at an age of two years in the littoral zone and at a very deep (210 m) locality. Between these depths it mainly reached maturation at an age of three years. In some years in densely populated areas, they delayed reproduction another year and reproduced as four year old. The variation in age at maturation in P.affinis in relation to depth could be quantitatively predicted by maximizing fitness in the Euler-Lotka equation.The size variation at maturation in S.entomon could be qualitatively predicted by maximizing fitness in the Euler-Lotka equation. The general condition for a smaller size at maturity to be adaptive at high temperatures (i.e. shallow areas) is that mortality rate should increase faster than growth rate with increasing temperature. When mortality is higher in young stages than in older and larger ones the pattern is also predicted when growth increases faster than mortality. Small animals may prefer warmer habitats than large ones, because of the presence of a size dependent trade-off between temperature induced growth and mortality. More exactly, the optimum solution of the trade-off between growth and mortality in hazardous environments was suggested to approach maximization of the expression s(W+g)/W, where s is survival rate, W is body weight, and g is growth rate.