Population structure and sexual maturity of the calico box crab Hepatus epheliticus Linnaeus (Brachyura, Hepatidae) from Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
The calico box crab Hepatus epheliticus is an abundant species from shallow and continental shelf waters of the Atlantic coast of USA and Mexico. Information about population structure and sexual maturity is absent, even though this crab is caught to be used as bait for the octopus fishery in the Campeche Bank, Mexico. In order to achieve such information, a total of 768 individuals were collected from January to March 2010 through baited traps installed in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Our results showed that sex ratio is biased towards more males than females (1:0.55), contradicting to that reported in other brachyuran crabs. The absence of ovigerous females suggests that they did not enter into the traps during embryogenesis. Males reached a larger maximum size than females (64.0 ± 6.15 and 58.4 ± 5.60 mm carapace width, respectively). The general scheme of growth being positive allometric throughout ontogeny of both sexes. Males presented a transition phase from juveniles to adult corresponding to the puberty moult. The estimation of the onset of functional sexual maturity revealed a steady situation for the population, with 21.5 and 13.8% of males and females, respectively, morphologically immature at the time of catch. This study constitutes the first report on population structure and sexual maturity in a population of the calico box crab H. epheliticus.