Skip to main content Accessibility help

Reproductive cycle of the blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus, off southern Australia

  • Martin S. Kumar (a1), Yongshun Xiao (a1), Sonja Venema (a1) and Graham Hooper (a1)


The proportion of berried (externally egg-bearing) females, fecundity, gonadosomatic index, and egg size of the blue swimmer crab Portunus pelagicus off southern Australia were examined by analysing data from samples of commercial catches using generalized linear models. Ovarian development was studied morphologically and histologically. Female blue swimmer crabs spawn from October to January and can spawn more than once per season. The fecundity of female blue swimmer crabs initially increased with carapace width, maximized at a carapace width of 134 mm, and decreased thereafter. Thus, fecundity increased 83.9% with an increase of carapace width from 105 to 125 mm, implying a single large female can produce as many eggs as two or more small females. The gonadosomatic index of female crabs from Spencer Gulf increased 2.4% from October 1998 to November 1998, increased an additional 15.9% by December 1998, and then decreased 62.3% to its minimum in January 1999. Gonadosomatic index also increased with 1/3 power of their body weight. Thus, the commonly used gonadosomatic index is overly simplistic for blue swimmer crabs. Unlike tropical or subtropical female blue swimmer crabs which often continually spawn, those off southern Australia spawn only in certain times of the year. The implications of this work lead to suggestions for three management measures for the commercial fishery: maintaining the prohibition of catching berried females, extending the seasonal closure from October to January, and maintaining the current legal minimum carapace width of 110 mm.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author, e-mail:


Hide All
Bawab, F.M. & El-Sherief, S.S., 1988. Stages of the reproductive cycle of the female crab Portunus pelagicus (L., 1758) based on the anatomical changes of the spermatheca (Decapoda, Brachyura, Portunidae). Crustaceana, 54, 139–148.
Caddy, J.F., 1989. Marine invertebrate fisheries. Their assessment and management. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Campbell, G.R., 1984. A comparative study of adult sexual behaviour and larval ecology of three commercially important portunid crabs from the Moreton Bay region of Queensland, Australia. PhD thesis, University of Queensland, Australia.
Campbell, G.R. & Fielder, D.R., 1986. Size at maturity and occurrence of ovigerous females in three species of commercially exploited portunid crabs in S.E. Queensland. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 97, 79–87.
Dhawan, R.M., Dwivedi, S.N. & Rajamanickam, G.M., 1976. Ecology of the blue crab Portunus pelagicus (Linnaeus) and its potential fishery in Zuari estuary. Indian Journal of Fisheries, 23, 57–64.
Diwan, A.D. & Nagabhushnam, R., 1975. Reproductive cycle and biochemical changes in the gonads of the freshwater crab, Barytelphusa cunicularis (Westwood, 1836). Indian Journal of Fisheries, 21, 164–176.
Jones, A.R., 1970. Studies on trawled invertebrates from Moreton Bay. MSc thesis, University of Queensland, Australia.
Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C., 1993. Australian fisheries resources. Canberra, Australia: Bureau of Resource Sciences, Department of Primary Industries and Energy.
Koslow, J.A., 1992. Fecundity and the stock recruitment relationship. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 49, 210–217.
Meagher, T.D., 1971. Ecology of the crab Portunus pelagicus in South Western Australia. PhD thesis, University of Western Australia, Australia.
Penn, J.W., 1977. Trawl caught fish and crustaceans from Cockburn Sound. Report of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Western Australia, 20, 1–24.
Pillai, K.K. & Nair, N.B., 1971. The annual reproductive cycles of Uca annulipes, Portunus pelagicus and Metapenaeus affinis (Decapoda: Crustacea) from southwest coast of India. Marine Biology, 11, 152–166.
Pillai, K.K. & Nair, N.B., 1976. Observations on the breeding biology of some crabs from the southwest coast of India. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 15, 754–770.
Potter, M.C., Chrystal, P.J. & Loneragan, N.R., 1983. The biology of the blue manna crab Portunus pelagicus in an Australian estuary. Marine Biology, 78, 75–85.
Prager, M.H., McConaugha, J.R., Jones, C.M. & Geer, P.J., 1990. Fecundity of blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, in Chesapeake Bay: biological, statistical and management considerations. Bulletin of Marine Science, 46, 170–179.
Rahaman, A.A., 1967. Reproductive and nutritional cycles in the crab, Portunus pelagicus (Linnaeus) (Decapod: Brachyuran) of the Madras coast. Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences, 65, 76–82.
Rahaman, A.A., 1980. Ecological observations on spawning of a few invertebrates of the Madras coast. Journal of Madurai Kamaraj University, 9, 71–77.
Rothschild, B.J., 1986. Dynamics of marinefishpopulations. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press. SAS Institute, Inc., 1988. SAS/STAT User'sguide, Release 6.03 edn. Cary, NC: SAS Institute Inc. SAS Institute, Inc., 1996. SAS/STAT Software: changes and enhancements through Release 6.11 edn. Cary, NC: SAS Institute Inc.
Shields, J.D. & Wood, F.E.I., 1993. Impact of parasites on the reproduction and fecundity of the blue sand crab Portunus pelagicus from Moreton Bay, Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 92, 159–170.
Smith, H., 1982. Blue swimmer crabs in South Australia—their status, potential and biology. Sofie, 6, 6–9.
Stead, D.G., 1888. Contributions to the knowledge of the Australian Crustacean fauna. I. Observations on the genus Neptunus. Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales, 4, 746–758.
Stearns, S.C., 1976. Life history tactics: a review of the ideas. Quarterly Review of Biology, 51, 3–47.
Sukumaran, K.K. & Neelakantan, B., 1996. Relative growth and sexual maturity in the marine crabs, Portunus (Portunus) sanguinolentus (Herbst) and Portunus (Portunus) pelagicus (Linnaeus) along the southwest coast of India. Indian Journal of Fisheries, 43, 215–223.
Sukumaran, K.K. & Neelakantan, B., 1997. Sex ratio, fecundity and reproductive potential in two marine portunid crabs, Portunus (Portunus) sanguinolentus (Herbst) and Portunus (Portunus) pelagicus (Linnaeus) along the Karnataka coast. Indian Journal of Marine Science, 26, 43–8.
Sulkin, S.D., 1984. Behavioural basis of depth regulation in the larvae of brachyuran crabs. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 15, 181–205.
Sumpton, W.D., Potter, M.A. & Smith, G.S., 1994. Reproduction and growth of the commercial sand crab, Portunus pelagicus (L.) in Moreton Bay, Queensland. Asian Fisheries Science, 7, 103–113.
Thompson, J.M., 1951. Catch composition of the sand crab fishery in Moreton Bay. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 2, 237–244.
Van Engel, W.A., 1958. The blue swimmer crab and its fishery in Chesapeake Bay. Part 1. Reproductions, early development, growth and migration. Communications in Fisheries and Reviews, 20, 6–17.
Van Engel, W.A., 1990. Development of the reproductively functional form in the male blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. Bulletin of Marine Science, 46, 13–22.
Xiao, Y., 1996. How does somatic growth rate affect otolith size in fishes? Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 53, 1675–1682.
Xiao, Y., 1998. Two simple approaches to use of production models in fish stock assessment. Fisheries Research, 34, 77–86.
Xiao, Y., 1999. General models for ageand time-dependent growth of animals. Fishery Bulletin, 97, 690–701.
Xiao, Y. & McShane, P., 2000. Use of ageand time-dependent seasonal growth models in analysis of tag/recapture data on the western king prawn Penaeus latisulcatus in the Gulf St Vincent, Australia. Fisheries Research, 37, 66–77.

Reproductive cycle of the blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus, off southern Australia

  • Martin S. Kumar (a1), Yongshun Xiao (a1), Sonja Venema (a1) and Graham Hooper (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed