Effects of autotomy on long-term survival and growth of painted spiny lobster (Panulirus versicolor)on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
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he effects of autotomy (shedding of appendages) on survival and growth rates of painted spiny lobster were investigated at Northwest Island (23° 18' S, 152° 43' E) during the period 2003–2006. Adult lobsters were captured, tagged, and classified as either uninjured (n = 68), minimally injured (n = 39) or moderately injured (n = 19) depending on the number and type of appendages that were autotomized during capture and handling. Six to thirty-six months after release, 86 lobsters were recaptured (mean time at large = 305 days). Recapture rates of uninjured (64.7%), minimally injured (71.8%), and moderately injured lobsters (73.7%) were not significantly different. Similarly, mean annualized growth rates of uninjured, minimally injured, and moderately injured lobsters were not significantly different. This suggests that the energetic cost of a single episode of autotomy is either negligible or exists as a trade-off with some other life history trait, such as reduced reproductive performance. These results support the use of certain management tools (e.g., size limits) that prescribe release of non-legal lobsters, regardless of their injury status.
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