Population dynamics of juvenile tiger prawns (Penaeus esculentus and P. semisulcatus) in seagrass habitats of the western Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia
Loneragan, N.R., Kenyon, R.A., Haywood, M.D.E. and Staples, D.J. (1994) Population dynamics of juvenile tiger prawns (Penaeus esculentus and P. semisulcatus) in seagrass habitats of the western Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Marine Biology, 119 (1). pp. 133-143.
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The population dynamics of small tiger prawns (Penaeus esculentus and P. semisulcatus) were studied at three sites around north-western Groote Eylandt, Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, between August 1983 and August 1984. Seagrasses typical of open-coastline, reef-flat and river-mouth communities were found in the shallow depths (≤2.5 m) at these sites. The temperature and salinity of the bottom waters did not differ among the shallowest depths of the three sites and mean values at night ranged from 21.9 to 32.0 °C, and from 30.1 to 37.5% S. Data from fortnightly sampling with beam trawls showed that virtually all post-larvae (∼90%) were caught in the intertidal and shallow subtidal waters (≥2.0 m deep). At one site, where the relationship between seagrass biomass, catches and depth could be studied in detail, high catches were confined to seagrass in shallow water, within 200 m of the high-water mark. This was despite the fact that seagrass beds of high biomass (>100 g m-2 between August and February) were found nearby, in only slightly deeper water (2.5 m). It is likely, therefore, that only the seagrass beds in shallow waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria act as important settlement and nursery areas for tiger prawns. In general, catches of tiger prawn postlarvae (both P. esculentus and P. semisulcatus) and juvenile P. esculentus on the seagrass in the shallowest waters at each site were higher in the tropical prewet (October–December) and wet (January–March) seasons than at other times of the year. Juvenile P. semisulcatus catches were highest in the pre-wet season. While seasonal differences accounted for the highest proportion of variation in catches of tiger prawn postlarvae and juvenile P. semisulcatus, site was the most important factor for juvenile P. esculentus. In each season, catches of juvenile P. esculentus were highest in the shallow, open-coastline seagrass, where the biomass of seagrass was highest. The fact that the type of seagrass community appears to be more important to juvenile P. esculentus than to postlarvae, suggests that characteristics of the seagrass community may affect the survival or emigration of postlarval tiger prawns. Few prawns (<10%) from the seagrass communities in shallow waters exceeded 10.5 mm in carapace length. Despite the intensive sampling, growth was difficult to estimate because postlarvae recruited to the seagrass beds over a long period, and the residence times of juveniles in the sampling area were relatively short (∼8 wk).
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