MEPS 285:169-180 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps285169

Effects of egg size, food supply and spawning time on early life history success of haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus

R. M. Rideout1,2,3,*, E. A. Trippel1, M. K. Litvak2

1Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 531 Brandy Cove Road, St. Andrews, New Brunswick E5B 2L9, Canada 2Department of Biology and Centre for Coastal Studies and Aquaculture, University of New Brunswick Saint John, New Brunswick E2L 4L5, Canada 3Present address: Fisheries Conservation Group, Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, PO Box 4920, St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 5R3, Canada

ABSTRACT: Eggs and larvae produced by pairs of spawning haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus were monitored between 2001 and 2003 to determine the effects of spawning time, egg size and food supply on early life history success. Females usually released eggs at 3 d intervals. All females exhibited a continuous decrease in egg diameter and dry weight with consecutive batches, but the decrease in size did not influence fertilization or hatching success. Larval size (standard length and dry weight), yolk area, eye diameter, myotome height, and finfold area were all positively related to egg size and therefore decreased between early- and late-season larvae produced by the same spawning pairs. Differences in larval morphology persisted for at least the first 5 d after hatching. Jaws were not developed at hatching (5°C), but jaw length did show a strong positive relationship with egg size at 5 d post-hatch (dph). The ability of newly hatched larvae to withstand periods of starvation was directly related to initial egg size. Under high prey abundance (5000 l-1) larval survival to 20 dph was highly variable (1.8 to 50.7%) with no differences in survivorship or specific growth rate (0.818 to 0.936% d-1 in standard length) for larvae from early-, middle- and late-season egg batches. With low prey density (1000 l-1) survival of larvae from late-season egg batches was significantly lower (0.4%) than those from early egg batches (1.8%). No differences in larval specific growth rate existed between early and late batches, but growth rate was reduced in both cases with low food abundance (0.683 to 0.690 d-1 in standard length). Results suggest that smaller larvae produced late in the spawning season have reduced feeding capabilities and may experience lower survivorship in the ocean than larger, early-season larvae.

KEY WORDS: Haddock · Spawning time · Egg size · Larvae · Prey density · Early life history success · Recruitment

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