Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 August 2017
The present study aimed to describe the reproductive cycle and estimate the size at sexual maturity of the Manila clam (Ruditapes philippinarum) in the Tagus Estuary (Portugal). Specimens were collected monthly from September 2013 to December 2015 during fishing surveys using bivalve dredges. The gametogenic cycle was described in detail using gonad histology and monitored throughout the study period by the monthly variation in the frequency of gonad maturation stages, mean gonadal index and mean oocyte diameter. This invasive population of R. philippinarum displayed synchronous gonadal development between sexes, with ripening occurring mainly in April and May followed by an extensive spawning period until November–December. Individuals reached the size at first sexual maturity at 29.4 mm in shell length (i.e. before 1 year old). Furthermore, the reproductive strategy, dynamics and potential were compared between the invasive R. philippinarum and the native congeneric carpet shell clam (Ruditapes decussatus). Overall, the data gathered in this study constitutes valuable baseline information to propose conservation strategies and implement management measures to minimize the harmful impacts caused by this invasive species on local ecosystems and native biodiversity, particularly over populations of autochthonous bivalves.