Title

Small-Scale Spatial and Temporal Variability in Growth and Mortality of Fish Larvae in the Subtropical Northcentral Gulf of Mexico: Implications for Assessing Recruitment Success

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2003

Department

Marine Science

Abstract

Extensive plankton collections were taken during seven September cruises (1990-93) along the inner continental shelf of the northcentral Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Despite the high productivity and availability of food during these cruises, significant smallscale spatial variability was found in larval growth rates for both Atlantic bumper (Chloroscombrus chrysurus, Carangidae) and vermilion snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens, Lutjanidae). The observed variability in larval growth rates was not correlated with changes in water temperature or associated with conspicuous hydrographic features and suggested the existence of less-recognizable regions where conditions for growth vary. Cruise estimates of mortality coefficients (Z) for larval Atlantic bumper (n=32,241 larvae from six cruises) and vermilion snapper (n= 2581 larvae from four cruises) ranged from 0.20 to 0.37 and 0.19 to 0.29, respectively. Even in a subtropical climate like the GOM, where larval-stage durations may be as short as two weeks, observed variability in growth rates, particularly when combined with small changes in mortality rates, can cause order-of-magnitude differences in cumulative larval survival. To what extent the observed differences in growth rates at small spatial scales are fine-scale "noise" that ultimately is smoothed by larger-scale processes is not known. Future research is needed to further characterize the small-scale variability in growth rates of larvae, particularly with regard to microzooplankton patchiness and the temporal and spatial pattern of potential predators. Small-scale spatial variability in larval growth rates may in fact be the norm, and understanding the implications of this subtle mosaic may help us to better evaluate our ability to partition the causes of recruitment variability.

Publication Title

Fishery Bulletin

Volume

101

Issue

1

First Page

10

Last Page

21