MEPS 231:247-260 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps231247

Growth-related advantages for survival to the point of replenishment in the coral reef fish Stegastes partitus (Pomacentridae)

David T. Wilson1,2,*, Mark G. Meekan3

1Department of Marine Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Naos Marine Lab, Unit 0948, APO AA 34002, USA
3Tropical Fisheries, Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia
*E-mail: Present address: Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, PO Box 3730, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799, USA

ABSTRACT: Records of age and growth stored within otoliths were used to compare early life history traits with patterns of light trap catches for the damselfish Stegastes partitus (Poey). Otoliths provided strong evidence that fast growing cohorts of S. partitus larvae had higher survivorship than slow growing cohorts. Average growth rates during the larval phase accounted for 83% of the variability in the magnitude of catches in light traps on a monthly basis. This result suggests that fast growing cohorts of larvae contribute more to the replenishment of benthic populations than slow growing cohorts of this species. Multiple regression identified water temperature, rainfall and wind component as important determinants of larval growth, age at capture and monthly catches of this species. These variables accounted for 7 to 36% of the variance in growth rates, while water temperature was moderately correlated (r2 = 0.48) with catches. If such correlations between larval growth rates and replenishment are a general phenomenon, then this may provide a simple means of predicting year-class success in a range of reef fishes.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef fish · Larval growth · Otolith · Survivorship · Replenishment · Environmental variables · Water temperature · Light traps

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