Eggs are bright orange in color and measure approximately 0.5 mm (0.02 inches) In diameter. Upon being extruded, eggs adhere to hook-like setae of pleopods located on the underside of the abdomen. They will remain in place until hatching at approximately 3 weeks. Several days before hatching occurs, eggs turn a darker brown color. Eggs hatch as transparent phyllosome larvae and are dispersed into the water column by repeated flexing of the female's abdomen. A second, smaller spawning may occur in Caribbean and West Indies populations about 1 week after release of eggs, though there is no evidence that a second spawning occurs in Florida waters. Following a second spawning, the ovary is usually spent, and the spermatophore erodes. Molting typically occurs after spawning. (William 1984). Phyllosomes are transparent and morphologically adapted for long planktonic existence being transported on oceanic currents for 6-12 months before metamorphosis to the postlarval stage (Lyons et al 1981). Phyllosomes are dorsoventrally flattened and have a bi-lobed cephalothorax. Appendages are long and setose to assist in floatation in the water column. Swimming is accomplished by flexion in the exopodites of the legs (Provenzano 1968). Phyllosomes vertically migrate on a daily basis, ascending to surface waters at night, and descending during the day (Sims and Ingle 1967). There are 11 stages of phyllosome development. During this period, larval size increases from 2 mm (0.07 inches) total length (TL) at hatching to approximately 34 mm (1.3 inches) before the metamorphosis to the postlarval puerulus stage. Pueruli persist for several weeks, are nonfeeding and oceanic (Lyons 1980). Like phyllosomes, they are dorsoventrally flattened and transparent, with no calcification in the carapace. Pueruli return to coastal waters from offshore, swimming shoreward at night, and tending to remain within a few centimeters of the water surface (Lyons 1980). Pueruli enter estuarine habitats throughout the year, with peaks occurring during new and first-quarter moons (Sweat 1968; Little and Milano 1980). Peak recruitment varies from year to year, but the main peak typically occurs in spring, followed by a lesser peak in the fall (Lyons 1980). Upon encountering suitable inshore substrates, pueruli settle to the benthos, typically in vegetated areas of algal beds, mangrove areas where prop roots are fouled by algae, seagrasses, small holes, and sand-mud bottoms (Witham et al 1964). Several days before the molt to the first juvenile stage, they begin to show signs of pigmentation, turning a red-brown color. Benthic juveniles are cryptically colored in varying shades, and have banding and striping that aids in camouflage. Young juveniles tend to be solitary and behave aggressively toward conspecifics, lashing them with antennae, or prying at them to dislodge them from refuges (Marx and Herrnkind 1986). However, an ontogenetic shift occurs to more social, gregarious behavior as body size increases. This shift appears to be at least partially dependent on the distribution and quality of shelters available (Marx and Herrnkind 1986).
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