MEPS 364:199-212 (2008)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07391

Habitat dynamics of summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus within a shallow USA estuary, based on multiple approaches using acoustic telemetry

D. K. Sackett1,2, K. W. Able1,*, T. M. Grothues1

1Marine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, 132/800 Great Bay Blvd., Tuckerton, New Jersey 08087, USA
2Present address: Department of Zoology, David Clark Laboratory, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7617, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: A comprehensive understanding of habitat use for economically and ecologically important species in estuaries is lacking. This research, based on passive and active ultrasonic telemetry, focuses on temporal and spatial patterns of juvenile and adult (length = 268 to 535 mm) summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus habitat use during years, seasons, tides, and diel periods from 2003 to 2005 in the Mullica River-Great Bay estuary in southern New Jersey, USA. Annual site fidelity was demonstrated by tagged fish that returned to the study estuary and frequented locales within 550 m or less of the sites where they were located in previous year(s). Fish resided within the estuary for a mean of 86 d (range: 1 to 217 d) during summer 2004, the year of the most comprehensive tracking. Fish primarily utilized the lower bay, close to the ocean inlet. Several more mobile individuals moved along the channel of the Intracoastal Waterway in Great Bay numerous times in a single season, while others moved up the bay and into the river in a year when salinity was higher than average. Tagged fish typically used deeper areas of the estuary correlated with high, stable levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) and temperature. Over diel and tidal periods, fish resided within small (0.18 km2) areas for 3 to 6 h but were in motion 74% of that time. Together, these observations indicate habitat-use patterns that are stable over long periods (years) but dynamic within shorter time periods (seasons, hours).


KEY WORDS: Habitat · Estuary · Movement · Site fidelity · Dynamics · Summer flounder · Essential fish habitat · Ultrasonic telemetry


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Cite this article as: Sackett DK, Able KW, Grothues TM (2008) Habitat dynamics of summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus within a shallow USA estuary, based on multiple approaches using acoustic telemetry. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 364:199-212. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07391

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