Date of Award

Summer 1993

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences

Committee Director

Mark J. Butler, IV

Committee Member

Daniel M. Dauer

Committee Member

Anthony J. Provenzano

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.B47 F54


Florida Bay is a major nursery for the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus. The Bay contains a series of hardbottom or seagrass-covered basins separated by mudbanks, which serve as barriers to water circulation and presumably to transport of postlarvae. Temperatures can fluctuate dramatically in the basins and salinities range from 35 ppt to > 50 ppt. In this study I: i) investigated the physiological tolerance of spiny lobster postlarvae to combinations of temperature and salinity representative of conditions in Florida Bay, and ii) examined how postlarval availability and habitat structure influence spiny lobster recruitment into basins. I measured juvenile lobster abundance, postlarval settlement, and nursery habitat structure along five transects from the middle Florida Keys into Florida Bay. Concurrently, postlarval survival, time-to-metamorphosis, and size at metamorphosis were measured in a laboratory experiment in which postlarvae were reared at four temperatures (18°C, 22°C, 29°C and 33°C) and four salinities (25, 35, 45 and 50 ppt). Postlarvae are not regularly transported beyond the mudbanks ringing Florida Bay; however, diver surveys of juvenile abundance indicate that some postlarvae do recruit beyond a few of these banks into basins (e.g., Twin Key Basin) where habitat and environmental conditions are suitable. Postlarvae can withstand a range of temperatures and salinities, but survival was significantly reduced at extreme temperatures (e.g., 18°C and 33°C) and salinities other than 35 ppt. Thus, during extended warm or cold periods, the hypersaline conditions of Florida Bay may restrict recruitment of Panulirus argus to areas near the Florida Keys where salinities of 35 ppt predominate.


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