MEPS 325:205-226 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps325205

Ontogenetic and seasonal trends in recent growth rates of Atlantic cod and haddock larvae on Georges Bank: effects of photoperiod and temperature

L. J. Buckley1,*, E. M. Caldarone2, R. G. Lough3, J. M. St. Onge-Burns1

1University of Rhode Island/NOAA Cooperative Marine Education and Research Program, Graduate School of Oceanography, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882, USA
2NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Narragansett Laboratory, 28 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882, USA
3NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Woods Hole Laboratory, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Growth rate is a key demographic factor affecting survival and recruitment of marine fishes. Yet in the field, the patterns of change in growth rate with development and the effects of environmental variability on growth are poorly understood. We examined several factors that may contribute to the observed variability in recent (i.e. 2 to 4 d before sampling) growth and survival of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua and haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus larvae on the southern flank of Georges Bank for the years 1995 through 1999. For both species, strong ontogenetic and seasonal trends in larval growth rates were apparent. A rapid initial increase in specific growth rate with larval size was observed in both species, followed by a stanza with little change in specific growth rate and finally a gradual increase with size to a maximum specific growth rate. For larva of any given size, growth rate increased as the season progressed. A variety of models were used to explore and describe the relations among growth rate, larval size, photoperiod, temperature and other variables. Generalized additive models (GAMs) with both larval size (protein content) and photoperiod terms explained 48% and 61% of the variability observed in recent growth of cod and haddock, respectively. Residuals from these models were used to examine the effects of other factors on estimated growth rates. Salinity, water density (sigma-t, σt), distance along the Bank, bottom depth, temperature (T) and residual T (observed T minus the long-term mean for a given day of the year) explained small but significant portions of the residual variability in larval growth rates. These data and other considerations suggest that, while both increasing photoperiod and temperature contribute to the increase in larval growth rates observed each spring, photoperiod rather than temperature was the better proxy for the seasonal trend in larval growth rates between March and May on Georges Bank. Feeding conditions and growth of larval Atlantic cod and haddock were poor during the late winter and spring of 1995 compared with those from 1997 to 1999.

KEY WORDS: Atlantic cod · Haddock · Larvae · Growth · Photoperiod · Temperature · Diel trends

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