Reproductive pattern and mean size of sexual maturity of female lobsters Panulirus gracilis (Decapoda: Palinuridae) in Playa Lagarto, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The lobster P. gracilis is important as a fishery resource and also contributes to food security of fishers in coastal communities in the North Pacific of Costa Rica. Due to the importance of updating knowledge related to the reproductive pattern of this species, we analyzed 357 specimens of female lobsters caught by the fishing methods of “hookah” and lung diving, from November 2007 to October 2008 in Playa Lagarto. Furthermore, we examined the size composition by depth; monthly pattern of reproductive activity (RAI) associated with the relative increase in sea surface temperature, and also the mean size at maturity using Generalized Linear Models. Four physiological states of sexual maturity showed that females with no signs of mating or sexual maturity have a minimum mean size of 62.3mm of cepha- lothorax length (CL). There are characteristics of functional maturity from very small sizes ranging from 30 to 50mm CL, being the smallest berried female reported for this specie of 35.8mm CL and the highest percentage of mature females between 70 and 80mm CL. Percentages of RAI remained above 50% during the year except October and January. In addition, it observed an increase in the RAI that started from April and continued until August associated with a relative increase in temperature on March, although the correlation was not significant (r2=0.49, p>0.05). It is possible that the low mean size at maturity (70.2mm LC) for P. gracilis in this region is related to the fishing activity. It recommends the establishment of a ban in the region of at least five months (April-August) in order to protect the reproductive seasonality of the species and to promote a recruitment increase in the fishing areas.
Keywords: reproductive pattern, mean size at maturity, panulirus gracilis, playa lagarto, costa rica