Alternate Title

Otolith Microchemical Fingerprints of Age-0 Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, from the Northern Gulf of Mexico


Red snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) are believed to constitute a single stock. However, tagging and genetics studies suggest there is little mixing between populations of red snapper in the northern Gulf, and little is known about mixing rates of adult fish. The long-term goal of our work is to determine if age-0 red snapper from different nursery areas have unique microchemical fingerprints in their sagittal otoliths, and if so, can the microchemical fingerprints at the core of adult otoliths be used to determine retrospectively nursery area of origin. Ultimately, we hope to use the microchemical fingerprints at the core of adult snapper otoliths to estimate adults' mixing rates and movement patterns. In this study, the objective was to determine if age-0 red snapper collected from different northern Gulf nursery areas in summer and fall 1995 did contain unique microchemical fingerprints. Sagittal otoliths of age-0 red snapper collected off the coasts of Alabama/Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES). Twelve elements in the sagittae of age-0 snapper were analyzed with ICP-AES. Of these, eight were put into a stepwise discriminant function analysis with the best-fitted model including Mg, Se, As, Fe, and AI, entered in that order (MANOVA, P < 0.001). Cross-validated classification accuracies were 92% for Texas fish, 91% for Louisiana fish, and 92% for Alabama/Mississippi fish. Therefore, it appears that otolith microchemistry can be used to infer nursery area of age-0 red snapper. Future work will focus on (1) establishing the temporal stability of age-0 red snapper otolith microchemical fingerprints and (2) inclusion of analyses of age-structured samples from adult red snapper otolith cores to estimate their nursery area of origin and mixing rates.