MEPS 235:303-309 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps235303

Pelagic larval growth rate impacts benthic settlement and survival of a temperate reef fish

Jeffrey S. Shima1,*, Amy M. Findlay2

1Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology and the Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
2Watershed Resource Center Manager, Community Environmental Council, 930 Miramonte Dr., Santa Barbara, California 93109-1348, USA
*Present address: School of Biological Sciences, Kirk Building, Kelburn Parade, PO Box 600, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Larvae of marine reef organisms settling into benthic habitats may vary greatly in individual quality. We evaluated potential effects of variation in larval growth rate (1 metric of quality) on larval duration, size-at-settlement, and post-settlement survival of recently settled kelp bass Paralabrax clathratus. We sampled kelp bass daily and weekly from standardized collectors located near the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, Santa Catalina Island, to characterize larval traits of settlers and surviving recruits. Using growth models to fit trajectories of larval otolith growth, we estimated instantaneous larval growth rates and found that these values were good predictors of larval duration and juvenile survival. Kelp bass that grew rapidly as larvae settled ~8.5 d sooner than the slowest growing individuals; both groups had similar sized individuals at settlement, but fast growing larvae experienced enhanced survival during the first 5 d after settlement relative to slower growing larvae. There is growing evidence suggesting that larval experience continues to exert demographic consequences on subsequent life stages. This helps to explain some of the spatial and temporal variability that characterizes recruitment in marine systems.

KEY WORDS: Juvenile performance · Larval quality · Larval traits · Metamorphosis · Physiological condition · Post-settlement survival · Recruitment · Reef fish

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