Knowledge of conditions that favor development of eggs is important for management of species whose population growth is sensitive to early life history survival. Viability and development of the eggs of horseshoe crabs Limulus polyphemus on a sand and gravel beach were evaluated using data gathered on Delaware Bay, USA, from 18 May to 19 June 2004. Eggs were transplanted to pouches and buried in the foreshore for up to 6 wk. Viability and developmental stage were estimated as a function of oxygen and temperature gradients across the foreshore. These gradients were related to the characteristics of the intertidal foreshore sediments, beach water table changes, and frequency of inundation due to tide and swash/backwash processes. Results demonstrate the importance of interstitial temperature for development to larvae and the passive role of sediment characteristics on moisture retention and temperature. Percentage of eggs remaining in egg stage was similar across the foreshore, but more eggs developed to embryos at 0.45 of foreshore width, where moisture and gravel content were greater and interstitial temperature was lower. More eggs developed to larvae at 0.60 and 0.75 of foreshore width, where moisture and gravel content were less but interstitial temperature was higher. The beach above 0.75 of foreshore width came under the influence of wave action or full tidal inundation only during high wave heights or spring tides, and pouches at 0.75 of foreshore width were inundated only 19% of the time. Periodic wetting at this elevation did not reduce overall viability of the eggs. High wave energy events resulted in sediment activation depths to pouches at 0.30 of foreshore width, where loss of eggs due to wave activation was the most important control on the development of eggs. ?? Inter-Research 2008.
Additional publication details
Physical and chemical changes in the foreshore of an estuarine beach: Implications for viability and development of horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus eggs