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Population dynamics and reproductive output of the non-indigenous crab Charybdis hellerii in the south-eastern Caribbean Sea

  • Juan A. Bolaños (a1), J. Antonio Baeza (a2) (a3) (a4), Jesús E. Hernandez (a1), Carlos Lira (a1) and Régulo López (a1)...


Charybdis hellerii is one of several poorly known non-indigenous crabs in the Caribbean. In this study we report on the reproductive dynamic of a shallow subtidal population that invaded Isla Margarita, Venezuela, south-eastern Caribbean Sea > 15 years ago and has persisted in the region up to date. Male and female crabs, both large and small, were found year-round at the study site. The size–frequency distribution indicated a lifespan of 2–3 years. Charybdis hellerii reproduces continuously but with very low intensity during the year. Small individuals (<25 mm carapace length) were uncommon and intermittently found during the study period. Sex-ratio varied between 0.1 and 0.65 (mean ± SD = of 0.46 ± 0.14) and did not differ significantly from 1:1 ratio during most of the year. The size of the smallest brooding female was 36.81 mm carapace width (CW). Behavioural size at first maturity (movable abdomen) in males and females was estimated to be 22.39 mm CW (confidence limits: 18.35–24.72) and 37.43 mm CW (35.55–39.09), respectively. Reproductive output, estimated as the ratio of embryo to female body dry mass, varied between 0.052 and 0.084 (0.07 ± 0.008). Also, reproductive output was size-dependent with large females allocating proportionally less resources to egg production than small females. The reproductive schedule here reported for C. hellerii disagrees with the generalized idea of exotic populations ‘thriving’ in an environment free of natural enemies (e.g. predators, competitors and diseases).


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: J. Antonio Baeza, Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, 701 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, FL 34949, USA email:


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