MEPS 212:223-232 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps212223

Demography and age structures of coral reef damselfishes in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean

M. G. Meekan1,*, J. L. Ackerman2, G. M. Wellington3

1Australian Institute of Marine Science, PO Box 264, Dampier, Western Australia 6713, Australia
2Department of Marine Biology, James Cook University, Queensland 4810, Australia
3Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston, Texas 77204-5513, USA

ABSTRACT: Few studies have examined spatial variation in the demography or age structures of coral reef fishes. We analysed sectioned sagittal otoliths to describe the age structures, growth and mortality of 5 species of Stegastes damselfishes. These were sampled at localities near the centre (Panamá) and at the northern (Baja California) and southern (Galápagos) edges of the eastern Pacific tropical reef environment. Widespread damselfishes were sampled at Panamá and Baja (S. flavilatus) and at Panamá and the Galápagos (S. acapulcoensis). The 3 remaining species were endemic to the Galápagos Archipelago (S. arcifrons, S. leucorus beebei) and Baja California (S. rectifraenum). We found that populations of widespread species in the Galápagos and Baja grew to larger adult sizes, had relatively long life spans and lower rates of mortality once asymptotic mean sizes were attained than populations of the same species in Panamá. These characteristics of long adult life spans and low mortality rates were shared by endemic species in the Galápagos and Baja. Our analysis revealed strong year classes that corresponded to the timing of El Niño-Southern Oscillation events in the age structures of both a widespread and an endemic species in the Galápagos Archipelago.


KEY WORDS: Otolith · Demography · Coral reef fish · Age · Growth · Adult


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