Male size at maturity is important information for management of crab fisheries. Morphometric and/or gonadal maturity, which have been used to estimate size at maturity for many male crustaceans, were examined as potential indicators of functional maturity using small, unfished stone crab Hapalogaster dentata as a model species. Morphometric size of maturity as estimated by the change of the allometric relationship between carapace length (CL) and chela height was 5.2 mm CL. The size at gonadal maturity as estimated by histological examination of the gonad and vasa deferentia was 5.3 mm CL. The functional size at maturity as estimated by observing precopulatory guarding pairs in the field was 9.5 mm CL, much larger than the former two estimates. Size-assortative mating was observed between guarding males and guarded females. Female choice for larger males and advantage of the larger males in mating fights may be the reasons why such discrepancy between morphometric and/or gonadal maturity and functional maturity exist. We suggest that minimum legal size limit for decapod crustaceans should be determined by the functional maturity—actual size to participate in mating—and that the size of functional maturity is useful information for conservation-oriented management.
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Vol. 20 • No. 4