MEPS 229:233-244 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps229233

Ontogenetic changes in depth distribution of juvenile flatfishes in relation to predation risk and temperature on a shallow-water nursery ground

R. N. Gibson1,*, L. Robb1, H. Wennhage1,2, M. T. Burrows1

1Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll PA34 4AD, Scotland, UK
2Kristineberg Marine Research Station, 450 34 Fiskebäckskil, Sweden

ABSTRACT: Stratified depth sampling was used to investigate the distributional changes of newly settled plaice Pleuronectes platessa and dabs Limanda limanda, and resident populations of shrimp Crangon crangon on a sandy beach. During the settlement period, the smallest newly settled plaice are found in deeper water than the larger fish that settled earlier. After settlement, plaice concentrate in water <1 m deep and there is a positive relationship between length and depth. Later in the year the fish gradually migrate into deeper water as they grow. Dabs settle later and in deeper water than plaice. Shrimp are concentrated in deeper water early in the year but migrate onshore in the summer. The movements of plaice are considered to be related to the predation risk caused by the shrimp and other predators in deeper water and to the higher temperatures in shallow water that promote faster growth. Once a size refuge from predators has been reached, the plaice move into deeper water. Intertidal pools probably serve as refuges for the smallest sizes of plaice because predators are less numerous in pools than in the sea. The use of shallow water by plaice represents the occupation of a niche which not only reduces predation and maximises growth, but may also greatly reduce competition for food in the earliest stages when densities are highest and competition with dabs is likely to be greatest.

KEY WORDS: Depth distribution · Predation · Competition · Growth · Sandy Beaches · Migration · Plaice · Dab · Shrimp

Full text in pdf format