Changes in nucleic acids over the molt cycle in relation to food availability and temperature in Homarus americanus postlarvae

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Postlarval lobsters Homarus americanus Milne Edwards hatched from three females collected in 1989 from Block Island Sound, Rhode Island were reared individually in the laboratory under nine treatment combinations of temperature (15, 18 and 21°C) and feeding (starved, low ration and full ration). Total RNA, DNA (mgind.-1), RNA:DNA ratios and molt stage were determined for individuals sampled at daily intervals. Postlarval lobsters had high resistance to starvation. A majority of the lobsters survive 12 d of food deprivation, with some surviving up to 24-29 d. During starvation, cell biomass (estimated from protein:DNA) decreased to a minumum size, whereas cell number (based on total DNA) was generally conserved. The molt cycle was arrested at molt stage C in the starved postalrvae. Instar duration was inversely related to temperature. However, the duration of the postlarval instar did not differ between the low and full ration treatments. Uncoupling of cell growth and the molt cycle was evident in the full and low ration treatments. In the full ration treatments, the postmolt through early premolt was characterized by a rapid increase in total RNA and DNA. Maximum cell biomass was attained by molt stage C or D0. In the low ration treatments, total RNA and DNA were less than those in the full ration treatments and the maximum cell biomass was attained only at molt stage D2-3. Notably, different feeding regimes resulted in different patterns in RNA:DNA ratios over the molt cycle during the postlarval instar. RNA:DNA ratio was a sensitive indicator of recent (2 to 3 d) food deprivation. However, this ratio was positively related to the level of feeding only at molt stages C to D1 and was inversely related to temperature regime. These results indicate that the use of RNA:DNA ratios to estimate the relative nutritional state of postlarval tobsters must be qualified with respect to the period of the molt cycle and the temperature regime. © 1992 Springer-Verlag.

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Marine Biology