Jacobs Molly W.

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Molly W.

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  • Article
    Effects of prior experience on shelter-seeking behavior of juvenile American lobsters
    (University of Chicago, 2017-05-24) Bayer, Skylar R. ; Bianchi, Katherine M. ; Atema, Jelle ; Jacobs, Molly W.
    Shelter-seeking behaviors are vital for survival for a range of juvenile benthic organisms. These behaviors may be innate or they may be affected by prior experience. After hatching, American lobsters Homarus americanus likely first come into contact with shelter during the late postlarval (decapodid) stage, known as stage IV. After the subsequent molt to the first juvenile stage (stage V), they are entirely benthic and are thought to be highly cryptic. We hypothesized that postlarval (stage IV) experience with shelter would carry over into the first juvenile stage (stage V) and reduce the time needed for juveniles to locate and enter shelters (sheltering). We found some evidence of a carryover effect, but not the one we predicted: stage V juveniles with postlarval shelter experience took significantly longer to initiate sheltering. We also hypothesized that stage V juveniles would demonstrate learning by relocating shelters more quickly with immediate prior experience. Our findings were mixed. In a maze, juveniles with immediate prior experience were faster to regain visual contact with shelter, suggesting that they had learned the location of the shelter. In contrast, there was no significant effect of immediate prior experience on time to initiate sheltering in an open arena, or in the maze after juveniles had regained visual contact. We conclude that very young (stage V) juvenile lobsters modify their shelter-seeking behavior based on prior experiences across several timescales. Ecologically relevant variation in habitat exposure among postlarval and early juvenile lobsters may influence successful recruitment in this culturally and commercially important fishery species.
  • Article
    Bigger is not always better : offspring size does not predict growth or survival for seven ascidian species
    (Ecological Society of America, 2010-12) Jacobs, Molly W. ; Sherrard, Kristin M.
    The presumed trade-off between offspring size and quality predicted by life history theory is often invoked to explain the wide range of propagule sizes observed in animals and plants. This trade-off is broadly supported by intraspecific studies but has been difficult to test in an interspecific context, particularly in animals. We tested the fitness consequences of offspring size both intra- and interspecifically for seven species of ascidians (sessile, suspension-feeding, marine invertebrates) whose offspring volumes varied over three orders of magnitude. We measured two major components of fitness, juvenile growth rates and survival, in laboratory and field experiments encompassing several food conditions. Contrary to the predictions of life history theory, larger offspring size did not result in higher rates of growth or survival, and large offspring did not perform better under nutritional stress, either intraspecifically or interspecifically. In fact, two of the four species with small offspring grew rapidly enough to catch up in size to the species with large offspring in as little as eight weeks, under wild-type food conditions. Trade-offs between growth potential and defense may overwhelm and obscure any trade-offs between offspring size and survival or growth rate. While large initial size may still confer a competitive advantage, we failed to detect any consequences of interspecific variation in initial size. This implies that larger offspring in these species, far from being inherently superior in growth or survival, require compensation in other aspects of life history if reproductive effort is to be efficient. Our results suggest that the importance of initial offspring size is context dependent and often overestimated relative to other life history traits.
  • Article
    Endocrine-disrupting alkylphenols are widespread in the blood of lobsters from southern New England and adjacent offshore areas
    (National Shellfisheries Association, 2012-06) Jacobs, Molly W. ; Laufer, Hans ; Stuart, James ; Chen, Ming ; Pan, Xuejun
    Endocrine-disrupting pollutants in rivers and oceans represent a poorly understood but potentially serious threat to the integrity of aquatic and coastal ecosystems. We surveyed the hemolymph of lobsters from across southern New England and adjacent offshore areas for 3 endocrine-disrupting alkylphenols. We found all 3 compounds in hemolymph from every year and almost every region sampled. Prevalence of contamination varied significantly between regions, ranging from 45% of lobsters from southern Massachusetts to 17% of lobsters from central Long Island Sound. Mean contamination levels varied significantly as a function of region, year sampled, and collection trip, and were highest overall in lobsters from western Long Island Sound and lowest in lobsters from central Long Island Sound. Surprisingly, lobsters from offshore areas were not less contaminated than lobsters from inshore areas. Contamination levels also did not vary as a function of lobster size or shell disease signs. Contaminated lobsters held in the laboratory did not retain alkylphenols, suggesting that hemolymph contamination levels represent recent, rather than long-term, exposure. Our data set is the first, to our knowledge, to survey endocrine-disrupting contaminants in a population across such a broad temporal and spatial scale. We show that alkylphenol contamination is a persistent, widespread, but environmentally heterogeneous problem in lobster populations in southern New England and adjacent offshore areas. Our work raises serious questions about the prevalence and accumulation of these endocrine-disrupting pollutants in an important fishery species.