Trans-Tasman Sea larval transport: Is Australia a source for New Zealand rock lobsters?

Stephen M. Chiswell, John Wilkin, John D. Booth, Basil Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Two species of rock lobster (Palinuridae) are commonly found in coastal waters around both New Zealand and Australia. Both species have a relatively long larval phase, which raises the question of how populations can be maintained in regions where the mean flow advects larvae away from the coast. Previous work shows that Jasus edwardsii is genetically indistinguishable between Australia and New Zealand, whereas Sagmariasus verreauxi may be genetically different between the 2 countries. Satellite altimeter data are used here to test the hypothesis that Australia acts as a source of larvae for some New Zealand populations, and to investigate if there is a physical mechanism for the apparent lack of gene flow for S. verreauxi. A Lagrangian approach is used in which the western Tasman Sea is seeded with numerical drifters to build up a statistical summary of the likely distribution of larval trajectories. Ignoring biological factors, about 9% of J. edwardsii and about 2% of S. verreauxi larvae might be expected to arrive in New Zealand waters within their respective larval lifetimes. An order-of-magnitude estimate shows that even with extremely high mortality, these rates are high enough for trans-Tasman larval flow to contribute to and possibly maintain some New Zealand populations. Larval flow across the Tasman Sea should be sufficient to maintain trans-Tasman genetic homogeneity in both species. We suggest that 1 reason that S. verreauxi may not be genetically homogenous is that in order to arrive in New Zealand within 1 larval lifetime, they have to cross the Tasman Sea north of the productive Subtropical Front where there is not enough prey to sustain them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-182
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
StatePublished - Feb 4 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • Lobster larvae
  • Modelling
  • Tasman Sea

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