Size and time of day affect the response of postlarvae and early juvenile grooved tiger prawns Penaeus semisulcatus De Haan (Decapoda: Penaeidae) to natural and artificial seagrass in the laboratory
Liu, H. and Loneragan, N.R. (1997) Size and time of day affect the response of postlarvae and early juvenile grooved tiger prawns Penaeus semisulcatus De Haan (Decapoda: Penaeidae) to natural and artificial seagrass in the laboratory. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 211 (2). pp. 263-277.
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Juvenile tiger prawns (Penaeus semisulcatus De Haan and P. esculentus Haswell) show a strong association with vegetated habitats and are rarely caught on non-vegetated areas. This pattern of distribution may be caused by postlarvae selecting vegetation when they settle, or to differences in post- settlement mortality in different habitats. In this study, we examined whether the postlarvae and early juvenile stages of P. semisulcatus would distinguish between seagrass (Zostera capricorni Aschers) without epiphytes, artificial seagrass and bare substratum in the laboratory. The responses of prawns reared from the egg to different stages of postlarval and juvenile development were tested to determine whether, and when, each size class showed a response to a particular habitat. Five size classes of postlarvae (average carapace lengths [CL] of 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7 and 2.0 mm) were offered a choice between Z, capricorni and hare sand. Small size classes of postlarvae either did not respond to Z. capricorni (1.2 and 1.6 mm CL), or were more abundant on bare substratum than Z. capriconi. In contrast, the largest size classes of postlarvae (1.7 and 2.0 mm CL) were more abundant on Z. capriconi during the day but not at night. The behaviour of postlarvae changed markedly at a size of 1.7 mm CL (22 days from the first nauplius): smaller postlarvae frequently swam in the water column; 1,7 and 2.0 mm CL postlarvae spent much more time resting on the substrate and perched on seagrass leaves. This size at which postlarvae first respond to seagrass during the day, and show mainly benthic behaviour, is similar to the size at which they are found on shallow seagrass beds in northern Australia. Large postlarvae (2.7 mm CL) and juveniles (4.1 mm CL) both were more abundant on artificial seagrass than bare sand during the day but not at night, indicating that they respond to structured habitats. When large postlarvae (2.4 mm CL) and juveniles (3.5 mm CL) were offered a choice between Z. capricorni without epiphytes and artificial seagrass, they were abundant on the Z. capricorni, which suggests that chemical cues from seagrass may explain some of the responses of P. semisulcatus to seagrass.
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