Spatio-temporal patterns in the mortality of bay scallop recruits in North Carolina: Investigation of a life history anomaly

Melanie J. Bishop*, Jose A. Rivera, Elizabeth A. Irlandi, William G. Ambrose, Charles H. Peterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


By timing reproduction to occur when predatory mortality on progeny is minimal, organisms may maximize recruitment to adult populations. Accordingly, an hypothesis to explain the greater importance of fall than spring spawning to North Carolina populations of bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) is that predatory mortality of bay scallop recruits is lower in fall and winter than spring and summer. To test this hypothesis, we measured predatory mortality of scallop recruits monthly. To infer the identities of predators that are most important in determining patterns of mortality of bay scallop recruits in spring and in fall, predatory mortality of bay scallop recruits was compared between the edge and interior of sheltered and exposed seagrass patches during the day and at night in May and November. Consideration of predatory mortality throughout the year indicated that mortality of scallop recruits over late spring and summer approaches 100% but is negligible over late fall and winter. In May, predatory mortality of scallop recruits was similar during day and night but greater at exposed than sheltered sites. In November, predatory mortality was greater during night than day and slightly greater at sheltered than exposed sites. In neither month did position within patch influence mortality, and at all times and places, missing and crushed scallops contributed a higher proportion than drilled scallops to the total dead. These spatio-temporal patterns of mortality of scallop recruits suggest that mud crabs, Dyspanopeus sayi, which are more abundant in exposed than sheltered seagrass beds during spring and can feed by day and night, are a likely major contributor to spatio-temporal pattern in mortality of scallop recruits in North Carolina. Blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, which are many times more abundant in summer than winter, may also contribute to observed seasonal patterns in mortality. The dramatically lower rates of predation on bay scallops over the winter months appear to provide fall settlers with a temporal window of opportunity to recruit to the adult population. Although spring spawning contributes little to adult populations in most years because of high rates of predatory mortality during summer, we hypothesize that spring spawning persists because infrequent devastating perturbations, such as hurricanes and red tides, can result in complete failure of fall recruitment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-146
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Crabs
  • Iteroparity
  • Mortality
  • Predation
  • Recruitment
  • Scallop


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