Relative Growth and Its Use to Determine the Morphological Sexual Maturity of Ucides Cordatus (Linnaeus, 1763) (Decapoda, Brachyura, Ucididae) from Two Mangrove Areas on the Northeastern Brazilian Coast
The study of relative growth was used to determine the dimensions that best demonstrate the morphological sexual maturity of Ucides cordatus from two mangrove areas (Ariquindá and Mamucabas) of the southern coast of the state of Pernambuco, northeast Brazil. The crabs were collected manually, with a capture effort by one person, during low tide in three different areas (each 25 m2) during a period of one year from April 2008 to March 2009. Crabs of both sexes were measured for the following dimensions: carapace width (CW); carapace length (CL); major cheliped propodus length (CPL); major cheliped propodus height (CPH); abdomen width (AW) and gonopod length (GL). These variables were subjected to an analysis of K-means clustering followed by a bivariate discriminant analysis, which separated the data into two groups: juveniles and adults. After separation of the groups, each age category was grouped into sixteen size classes of CW and the proportion of adults in each size class was calculated, and fitted to a logistic equation. Subsequently, an interpolation was performed to determine the size at which 50% of the males and females were mature. The relationships that best demonstrated the size at maturity were CPL vs. CW for males (Positive allometry; Ariquindá — juveniles b = 1.27, adults b = 1.41; Mamucabas — juveniles b =1.27, adults b = 1.44) and AW vs. CW for females (Positive allometry; Ariquindá — juveniles b = 1.34, adults b = 1.28; Mamucabas — juveniles b = 1.32, adults b = 1.44). The present analysis indicates that, for these same relationships, 50% of males and females are morphologically mature, at, respectively, 38.0 and 35.4 mm CW in Ariquindá, and 37.3 and 32.9 mm CW in Mamucabas. Positive allometry shown in the female abdomen is related to egg incubation, and the excessive growth observed in the male cheliped must be related to reproductive behaviour, including courtship and intra- or inter-specific agonistic interactions with other males.