Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


Some egg-bearing (ovigerous) American lobsters (Homarus americanus) make seasonal inshore-to-offshore movements, subjecting their eggs to different thermal regimes than those of eggs carried by lobsters that do not make these movements. Our goal was to determine if differences in thermal regimes influence the rate of egg development and the subsequent time of hatch. We subjected ovigerous lobsters to typical inshore or offshore water temperatures from September to August in the laboratory (n = 8 inshore and 8 offshore, each year) and in the field (n = 8 each, inshore and offshore), over 2 successive years. Although the rate of egg development did not differ significantly between treatments in the fall (P ∼ 0.570), eggs exposed to inshore thermal regimes developed faster in the spring (P < 0.001). “Inshore” eggs hatched about 30 days earlier (mean = 26 June) than “offshore” eggs (mean = 27 July), and their time of development from the onset of eyespot to hatch was significantly shorter (inshore = 287 ± 11 days vs. offshore: 311.5 ± 7.5 days, P = 0.034). Associated growing degree-days (GDD) did not differ significantly between inshore and offshore thermal treatments (P = 0.061). However, eggs retained by lobsters exposed to offshore thermal regimes accumulated more GDD in the winter than did eggs carried by inshore lobsters, while eggs exposed to inshore temperatures acquired them more rapidly in the spring. Results suggest that seasonal movements of ovigerous lobsters influence the time and location of hatching, and thus the transport and recruitment of larvae to coastal and offshore locations.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Biological Sciences

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The Biological Bulletin


University of Chicago Press

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