Management of the few regulated ornamental fisheries relies on inadequate information about the life history of the target species. Herein, we investigated the reproductive biology of the most heavily traded marine invertebrate in the western Atlantic; the blue-legged hermit crab Clibanarius tricolor. We report on density, individual-level, and population-level reproductive parameters in 14 populations spanning the Florida Keys. In C. tricolor, abundance, population-level, and individual-level reproductive parameters exhibited substantial small-scale spatial variation in the Florida Keys. For instance, the proportion of brooding females varied between 10-94% across localities. In females, average (±SD) fecundity varied between 184 (±54) and 614 (±301) embryos crab-1 across populations. Fecundity usually increases with female body size in hermit crabs. However, we found no effect of female body size on fecundity in three of the populations. Altogether, our observations suggest that C. tricolor may fit a source-sink metapopulation dynamic in the Florida Keys with low reproductive intensity and absence of a parental body size-fecundity relationship resulting in net reproductive loses at some localities. We argue in favor of additional studies describing population dynamics and other aspects of the natural history of C. tricolor (e.g., development type, larval duration) to reveal 'source' populations, capable of exporting larvae to nearby populations. Our observations imply that future studies aimed at assessing standing stocks or describing other aspects of the life history of this hermit crab need to focus on multiple localities simultaneously. This and future studies on the reproductive biology of this species will form the baseline for models aimed at assessing the stock condition and sustainability of this heavily harvested crustacean.
Baeza, J. Antonio and Behringer, Donald C. 2017. Small-scale spatial variation in population- and individual-level reproductive parameters of the blue-legged hermit crab Clibanarius tricolor. <i>PeerJ<i>, 5 doi:10.7717/peerj.3004