• Alaskan king crab: Bering Sea distributions and a parasitic castrator

      Zacher, Leah Sloan; Hardy, Sarah; Eckert, Ginny; Kruse, Gordon; Horstmann, Lara; Morado, Frank (2018-05)
      King crab play an integral role in both marine ecosystems and fisheries; they influence benthic community structure through predation, help regulate trophic cascades, and are an important food source for large fishes, marine mammals, and humans. To sustainably manage king crab fisheries in a changing climate, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of king crab biology and behavior, as well as knowledge on how they utilize and interact with other components of the ecosystem. I investigated factors important to king crab sustainability and management, including distribution patterns and a parasitic castrator. Rhizocephalan barnacles in the genus Briarosaccus parasitize and castrate king crab hosts, thereby preventing host reproduction and potentially altering host abundance. In Alaska, prevalence is generally low (< 1% infection rate), yet higher prevalence has occurred in localized bays and fjords. I studied the larval biology of Briarosaccus regalis infecting Paralithodes camtschaticus (red king crab) to better understand how environmental factors in Alaska may influence prevalence. Maximum larval B. regalis survival occurred from 4 to 12°C and at salinities between 25 and 34. Given these parameters, current conditions in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea appear favorable for high survival of B. regalis larvae. Rhizocephalans not only castrate their hosts, but they cause changes in host morphology, physiology, and behavior. I used an untargeted metabolomics (liquid chromatography mass spectrometry) approach to compare the metabolite profiles (e.g., signaling molecules, hormones) of P. camtschaticus and Lithodes aequispinus (golden king crab) with and without rhizocephalan infections. Hundreds of putative metabolites were identified, yet few differed with crab sex and no metabolites could differentiate infected from healthy crab (regardless of crab sex). There were large variations in the crab metabolome with collection year and location, perhaps associated with environmental variability, which likely masked differences between sex and infection status. Summer distributions of Bristol Bay red king crab are well documented from surveys, but their distribution patterns at other times of year are poorly understood. Daily fishing logs, kept by vessel skippers in the red king crab fleet since 2005, contain detailed information on the spatial distribution of fishery effort and catch of legal sized male crab during the autumn crab fishery. However, data contained in these hand-written logbooks have not been readily accessible. I digitized daily fishing logs from 2005 to 2016 and used spatial information to infer geographic distributions. These distributions were compared across temperature regimes. In warm years (2005, 2014 - 2016) crab aggregated in the center of Bristol Bay, while in cold years (2007 - 2013) they were closer to the Alaska Peninsula. There are regions in Bristol Bay that are closed to the bottom trawl fisheries to protect red king crab; these results have management implications because they show the extent to which crab use these closure areas in the autumn, shortly before the winter trawl fisheries begin. As temperatures continue to shift in the Bering Sea, it will be important to continue monitoring crab distributions outside the summer survey period. Overall, these studies should help guide the placement of trawl closure areas, predict crab movement with temperature changes, understand the larval biology of B. regalis and what that could mean with climate change, and lead to a better understanding of the physiology of Briarosaccus infection.
    • Evaluating potential age structures for three Alaska crustacean species

      Rebert, April L.; Kruse, Gordon; Webb, Joel; Tamone, Sherry (2019-05)
      Banding patterns are observed in calcified structures of red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus), snowcrab (Chionoecetes opilio), and spot shrimp (Pandalus platyceros). Recent research supports an age determination method based on these banding patterns; however, processing methodologies for these structures have not been established. Further, species-specific evidence is needed to determine whether these patterns indicate actual age or growth. The objectives of this thesis are to: (1) describe optimal species-specific methods for producing and evaluating band counts for red king crab, snow crab, and spot shrimp; and (2) use differences in shell condition to test whether band counts indicate age for snow crab. For each species, we comprehensively thin-sectioned structures, evaluated each section for banding pattern presence (readability), and developed band count criteria. To address objective 1, we used generalized additive models to describe readability across structures to find the location that optimizes the production of readable sections. For objective 2, we used a one-way ANOVA to compare band count and endocuticle measurements among shell conditions in snow crab. Results indicated preferred structures, locations, section orientation, and thickness. Results also indicated that there is no relationship between band count and shell condition for terminally molted snow crab. These results describe optimal methods for processing crustacean structures and suggest that the potential age structures may not continue to produce bands after terminal molt in the case of snow crab. Further evaluation is needed to validate potential age relationships and the use of this technique for age estimation.
    • Growth physiology of juvenile red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, in Alaska

      Westphal, Miranda J.; Tamone, Sherry; Eckert, Ginny; Siddon, Christopher (2011-08)
      Lack of recovery, following collapse of the Alaskan red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, fishery, has prompted research directed towards rehabilitating the species. To better inform rehabilitation efforts aimed at increasing survival and growth of P. camtschaticus in their first year of life, I compared individual growth of hatchery-raised and wild-caught juvenile crabs in the laboratory and then compared both sets of laboratory individuals with cohorts from the field. To understand molt cycles, hemolymph was collected from age-0 and age-3 crabs to quantify circulating molting hormones (ecdysteroids) and the duration of premolt. Size, growth increment, molt interval, and cumulative molt interval did not differ significantly between hatchery-raised and wild-caught crabs. No consistent differences existed in CL between hatchery, wild-laboratory and field-surveyed juveniles for most months, although spine lengths of hatchery-raised and wild-caught crabs were significantly longer than field-surveyed crabs most months. Patterns of circulating ecdysteroids resembled published profiles for other crustacean species. Peak ecdysteroid levels occurred regularly (approximately 17 d) prior to ecdysis despite varying molt intervals. Age-0 and age-3 juveniles spent approximately 39 % and 32 % of the molt cycle in premolt, respectively. Overall, hatchery-raised and wild P. camtschaticus were markedly similar with respect to growth.