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Golden King Crab Research at the Kodiak Laboratory

[Photo © R. Reuter, NOAA Fisheries; Golden King Crab on the sea floor, thgkc_aleut_rreuter.jpg]

[Golden King crab female with newly hatched larvae, thgkc_hatching.jpg]

[Golden King crab female with eyed eggs, thgkc_eggs_edit2.jpg]

[Golden King crab egg with eyes, thgkc_ee2457.jpg]

Scott Van Sant is leading laboratory studies of the golden king crab, Lithodes aequispinus. This work includes studies of the reproductive cycle, embryonic development, larval cultivation, juvenile growth, and habitat interactions of this deep water commercially important species. The reproductive cycle and embryonic development of golden king crab will be described.

Another aspect of the project will focus upon optimizing cultivation techniques and technology for golden king crab including competency experiments and the effects of temperature and density on survival and growth. Unlike red and blue king crab, golden king crab larvae are fully lecithotrophic or "yolk feeding" so they do not require food thereby eliminating the need for cultivating microalgae and artemia for food. This larval lecithotrophic feeding mode is thought to be an adaptation to living in the deep sea where unfavorable conditions for plankton and larval dispersal exist.

For the first time experimental early life studies will be conducted on this deep water species to determine settlement behavior, habitat preference, and growth of juveniles. Preliminary data and experiments were completed with collaborations with Dr. Bradley Stevens. Dr. Stevens has developed techniques for morphometric measurements of developing embryos using photomicroscopic and image analysis to monitor development and hatch timing of well developed embryos as well as to describe the complete embryonic development (Embryonic Development of Pribilof Island Blue King Crab, Paralithodes platypus, Studied Using Image Analysis and Clustering Procedures, pdf ). In 2005/2006, a partnership with Drs. Federico Tapella and Carolina Romero from Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and Centro Austral de Investigaciones Científicas (CADIC) in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, resulted in an exchange of ideas and technology for cultivation studies as well as experiments for determining habitat preference of settling juveniles (Settling Behavior and Substrate Preferences of Red King Crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) Glaucothoe, 334KB pdf). Selection of experimental habitat and substrate types will be based on studies for other king crab by Stevens and Tapella as well as from in situ submersible observations of juvenile golden king crab habitat associations by Bob Stone (AFSC Auke Bay Laboratory, AK). The Argentinian scientists are very interested in golden king crab since they share many similarities to the southern king crab (Lithodes santolla) like lecithotrophic and demersal larval phases.

Other collaborative studies led by Dr. Kermit Reppond (NWFSC REUT division, Kodiak) and Dr. Alexandra Oliveira (UAF SFOS FITC, Kodiak) will focus on the effect of rearing temperature on lipid metabolism and development of larvae of the golden king crab. The objective of this work will be to determine if a decrease in survival through the larval stages for larvae reared at elevated temperatures is linked to increased metabolism of lipids. Also critical to the success of this study is the assistance of volunteers and interns, Sarah Thompson, Tabitha Hughes, Elizabeth Lehmer, Jassalyn Bradbury.

For Further information:
Dr. Bradley Steven's research on the 1999 Alvin (DSV) cruise and the 2002 R/V Atlantis cruise to the Gulf of Alaska seamounts offers more information on deep sea habitats. Crab adaptations to deep sea living can be found at Artic Science Journey's Seamount Oasis story and NOAA's Ocean Explorer Explorations. Dr. Bob Stone's research can be viewed by visiting "Coral Gardens of the Aleutians"  Underwater Video or reading a report on the benthic habitat research conducted by Auke Bay Laboratory scientists.


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