Metric variations in populations of carcinus moenas

  • Williams G
  • Needham A
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Abstract

1. Measurements of Carcinus, comparable to those taken by Weldon at Plymouth 40 years ago, have been made on material from three Irish localities, the observations in each area extending over three years. The three localities afford different environments, one having no silt, one a moderate amount and the other much silt. 2. The results support the view that the change in the ratio frontal width/ carapace length with increase in body size is due to differential growth in the individual and is not caused, as Weldon supposed, by the continuous removal through natural selection of those crabs with a relatively wide frontal aperture. Measurement on the growth of individuals confirms this view. 3. A striking fact which emerged from Weldon's work was that the ratio mentioned above showed a successive diminution in each of the three years covered by the observations. A precisely similar diminution has been found at each of the Irish localities, and it is shown that the annual differences are mathematically significant. 4. The results disprove Weldon's hypothesis that the change in the ratio is correlated with the slow accumulation of silt in Plymouth Sound. The Irish locality with most silt has the widest frontal aperture and the intermediate locality the narrowest. It is also shown that the yearly trend towards a lower value for the ratio cannot be continuous, for the rate of change is too rapid to be maintained indefinitely, and the values obtained in the Irish localities overlap those at Plymouth 40 years earlier. Possible explanations of the changes are discussed. 5. The differences between populations from the three localities in any year are much less marked than the annual differences at one locality, and are not generally significant. Though small, however, they do show a consistent sequence among the three localities (but not corresponding to the order for siltiness). 6. The equation of simple allometry, y = bxa,, applies to the data, at any rate as a useful approximation. The mean of b, and the variance of b, show consistent annual, and local differences in magnitude, and a regular change with increase in body size. The sequence for b itself may either correspond with that for its variance or run precisely counter to it. 7. The relation of individual growth to the mean curve of growth for a whole population is indicated and the value of the latter discussed. 8. A possible explanation of the differential growth of the dimension frontal width is advanced.

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Authors

  • G. Williams

  • A. E. Needham

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