Reproductive Biology

Pairs form at about four years of age (length about 3.3 ft [1 m]), and eggs are first laid at about seven years. Spawning occurs from October to February. Courtship consists of the male repeatedly bumping the female's abdomen; when she is receptive he coils around her snake-like. Eggs are fertilized as they are laid in clumps of about 7,000-10,000, and the female gathers these up into a ball and wraps around them, occasionally turning them for aeration. Both parents guard the nest, and only one at a time leaves to forage. Hatching occurs at 13-16 weeks, depending on water temperature. Juveniles are free-swimming for up to two years, then settle on open bottom until they take up their sedentary den life.

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