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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 527:167-180 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11265

Composition and temporal patterns of larval fish communities in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, USA

Filipe Ribeiro1,3,*, Edward Hale2, Eric J. Hilton1, Todd R. Clardy1, Alison L. Deary1, Timothy E. Targett2, John E. Olney1,†

1Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA
2School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware, Lewes, Delaware 19958, USA
3Present address: Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre—MARE, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, 1749-016, Lisboa, Portugal
*Corresponding author: Deceased

ABSTRACT: Comparing larval fish assemblages in different estuaries provides insights about the coastal distribution of larval populations, larval transport, and adult spawning locations. We simultaneously compared the larval fish assemblages entering 2 Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) estuaries (Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay, USA) through weekly sampling from 2007 to 2009. In total, 43 taxa (32 families) and 36 taxa (24 families) were collected in Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, respectively. Mean taxonomic diversity, mean richness, and evenness were generally lower in Delaware Bay. Communities of both bays were dominated by Anchoa spp., Gobiosoma spp., Micropogonias undulatus, and Brevoortia tyrannus; Paralichthys spp. was more abundant in Delaware Bay and Microgobius thalassinus was more abundant in Chesapeake Bay. Inter-annual variation in the larval fish communities was low at both sites, with a relatively consistent composition across years, but strong seasonal (intra-annual) variation in species composition occurred in both bays. Two groups were identified in Chesapeake Bay: a ‘winter’ group dominated by shelf-spawned species and a ‘summer’ group comprising obligate estuarine species and coastal species. In Delaware Bay, 4 groups were identified: a ‘summer’ group of mainly obligate estuarine fishes being replaced by a ‘fall’ group; ‘winter’ and ‘spring’ groups were dominated by shelf-spawned and obligate estuarine species, respectively. This study demonstrates that inexpensive and simultaneous sampling in different estuaries provides important insights into the variability in community structure of fish assemblages at large spatial scales.


KEY WORDS: Estuarine systems · Young-of-the-year · Community composition · Temporal variability · Ichthyoplankton · Middle Atlantic Bight


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Cite this article as: Ribeiro F, Hale E, Hilton EJ, Clardy TR, Deary AL, Targett TE, Olney JE (2015) Composition and temporal patterns of larval fish communities in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 527:167-180. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11265

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