Saturday, March 5, 2016

Baby Blue Crabs Blown into Chesapeake Bay

Maryland Sea Grant highlighted new research from colleagues at University of Maryland's Horn Point Lab on how important weather is for helping baby blue crabs migrate from the ocean into bays and estuaries.

New Clues to How Crab Babies Make It Back to the Bay

crab megalopa on a transparent ruler

Daniel Pendick • February 29, 2016
Every spring, female crabs near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay spawn their young. Nearly all of the hatched larvae are swept into the open ocean by outflowing surface water. Adrift in the sea, they feed on even tinier marine creatures and speed through seven growth spurts over a month or so. Finally, as the little swimmers are just starting to look like crabs, some of them manage to make it back into the Bay and get a chance to grow into adults. 
Chesapeake Bay scientists have spent decades trying to figure out how these boomerang babies — larval crabs called megalopae — get back to the estuary. Are they carried in by nighttime tides? By underwater currents? Or by massive wind-driven inflows of ocean water? In search of answers, scientists mounted two research cruises in 2005 and 2006 to gather new data on the crab homecoming in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Understanding these details might someday help regulators to fine-tune management of crab harvests...

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