The southern king crab, Lithodes santolla Molina, is distributed in cold-temperate and subantarctic waters ranging from the southeastern Pacific island of Chiloé (Chile) and the deep Atlantic waters off Uruguay, south to the Beagle Channel (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina/Chile). Recent investigations have shown that its complete larval development from hatching to metamorphosis, comprising three zoeal stages and a megalopa, is fully lecithotrophic, i.e. independent of food. In the present study, larvae were individually reared in the laboratory at seven constant temperatures ranging from 1 to 18 °C, and rates of survival and development through successive larval and early juvenile stages were monitored throughout a period of 1 year. The highest temperature (18 °C) caused complete mortality within 1 week; only a single individual moulted under this condition, 2 days after hatching, to the second zoeal stage, while all other larvae died later in the zoea I stage. At the coldest condition (1 °C), 71% of the larvae reached the zoea III stage, but none of these moulted successfully to a megalopa. A temperature of 3 °C allowed for some survival to the megalopa stage (17–33% in larvae obtained from two different females), but only a single individual passed successfully, 129 days after hatching, through metamorphosis to the first juvenile crab instar. At all other experimental conditions (6, 9, 12 and 15 °C), survival through metamorphosis varied among temperatures and two hatches from 29% to 90% without showing a consistent trend. The time of nonfeeding development from hatching to metamorphosis lasted, on average, from 19 days at 15 °C to 65 days at 6 °C. The relationship between the time of development through individual larval or juvenile stages (D) and temperature (T) was described as a power function (D=aTb, or log[D]=log[a]blog[T]). The same model was also used to describe the temperature dependence of cumulative periods of development from hatching to later larval or juvenile stages. One year after hatching, the 7th (6 °C) to 9th (15 °C) crab instar was reached. Under natural temperature conditions in the region of origin of our material (Beagle Channel, Argentina), L. santolla should reach metamorphosis in October–December, i.e. ca. 2 months after hatching (taking place in winter and early spring). Within 1 year from hatching, the crabs should grow approximately to juvenile instars VII–VIII. Our results indicate that the early life-history stages of L. santolla tolerate moderate cold stress as well as planktonic food-limitation in winter, implying that this species is well adapted to subantarctic environments with low temperatures and a short seasonal plankton production. <br/
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