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Keywords:

  • Larval development;
  • life history;
  • oocytes;
  • polychaeta;
  • reproduction

Abstract

Diopatra neapolitana Delle Chiaje, 1841 (Annelida, Onuphidae) is an important economic natural resource in Ria de Aveiro (northwestern coast of Portugal) and throughout Europe. The species is intensively harvested for use as fresh bait. However, there is only limited knowledge about its life cycle derived from a previous study in Mediterranean Sea. Reproduction and development patterns are known to vary biogeographically, making it important to base management decisions on locally appropriate information. This work examines reproduction patterns for populations from the Eastern Atlantic, which have not previously been assessed, with an eye towards drawing Atlantic–Mediterranean comparisons and informing local management strategies. The study was conducted from May 2007 to April 2009 in Ria de Aveiro. The reproductive biology of D. neapolitana was described from the proportional variation of worms with gametes in the coelom and from the progression of the oocyte diameter. Individuals with gametes inside the coelom were found all year round, but the peak reproductive period occurred between May and August, when almost all individuals had gametes in the coelom and females contained more oocytes than at any other time of the year. The overall male:female ratio was close to 1:1 and the oocyte diameter ranged from 40 to 240 μm. In vitro fertilization was performed and the results compared to other studies. Based on the present results, some protection measures are suggested to implement a sustainable exploitation of the species.