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Marching to a different drummer: crabs synchronize reproduction to a 14-month lunar-tidal cycle
Skov, M. W.; Hartnoll, R. G.; Ruwa, R. K.; Shunula, J. P.; Vannini, M.; Cannicci, S. (2005). Marching to a different drummer: crabs synchronize reproduction to a 14-month lunar-tidal cycle. Ecology 86(5): 1164-1171. dx.doi.org/10.1890/04-0917
In: Ecology. Ecological Society of America: Brooklyn, NY. ISSN 0012-9658; e-ISSN 1939-9170, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    crabs, reproductive rhythm, reproductive synchrony, synodic cycle, tidal rhythm, tropics

Authors  Top 
  • Skov, M. W., more
  • Hartnoll, R. G.
  • Ruwa, R. K., more
  • Shunula, J. P.
  • Vannini, M., more
  • Cannicci, S., more

    Biological rhythms with lunar components are common in nature. In the sea, the moon's gravitational pull on earth is the principal cause of the tides, which normally reach maximum amplitudes every new and full moon. Many populations synchronize spawning to this time. Some choose either the new or the full moon, implying that moonlight is important; but one lunar phase usually has higher tides than the other, and many species select the phase with the higher tide to improve the offshore transport of their progeny. However, tidal dominance by one lunar phase is not constant; it switches between new and full moon every seven months. We tested the influence of this 14-month "syzygy inequality cycle" (SIC) on lunar synchrony by sampling 11 populations of intertidal crabs at two locations in East Africa for 21 months. Eight populations synchronized larval release with the SIC. Tidal cues were more important than moonlight in entraining the reproductive rhythm, although two populations synchronized spawning to the new moon. SIC synchrony increased with population shore level, because only the higher lunar tide permitted top-shore spawning. Top-shore species therefore have a restricted lunar choice. SIC synchrony could be common, given that it occurs in most marine environments.

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