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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 651:111-123 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13457

Application of otolith chemistry at multiple life history stages to assess population structure of Warsaw grouper in the Gulf of Mexico

P. J. Sanchez1,*, J. R. Rooker1, M. Zapp Sluis1, J. Pinsky1, M. A. Dance2, B. Falterman3, R. J. Allman4

1Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University (Galveston Campus), Galveston, TX 77554, USA
2Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
3Grand Isle Fisheries Research Lab, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Baton Rouge, LA 70898, USA
4Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, Panama City, FL 32408, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Chemical markers in otoliths have been used to assess the stock structure of many marine fishes, but these natural markers have yet to be widely evaluated or applied to demersal fishes in offshore habitats where physicochemical gradients are generally less pronounced relative to nearshore waters. To address this, we quantified trace elements (Li, Mg, Mn, Co, Cu, Zn, Sr, Ba) and stable isotopes (δ13C and δ18O) in otoliths of Warsaw grouper Hyporthodus nigritus from 4 regions in the Gulf of Mexico (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama-NW Florida, and SW Florida). Region-specific differences in otolith chemistry were observed, and notable differences in several influential markers (Mn:Ca, Sr:Ca, and Ba:Ca ratios and δ18O) were present, particularly between the most distant regions investigated (Texas/Louisiana and SW Florida). Distinct regional signatures were observed for Warsaw grouper across 3 life history stages: first year (otolith core), most recent years (otolith edge), and lifetime (whole otolith), suggesting that individuals within certain regions share common environmental histories that may represent unique contingents or sub-populations. Findings also demonstrate that spatial variability within these markers was consistent enough to overcome any temporal variability within the geographic domains investigated for all 3 life history stages, highlighting their potential value for assessing the natal origin, exchange, and population structure of this species and potentially other members of the deepwater fish assemblage.


KEY WORDS: Hyporthodus nigritus · Connectivity · Contingent · Metapopulation · Fisheries · Trace elements · Stable isotopes


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Cite this article as: Sanchez PJ, Rooker JR, Zapp Sluis M, Pinsky J, Dance MA, Falterman B, Allman RJ (2020) Application of otolith chemistry at multiple life history stages to assess population structure of Warsaw grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 651:111-123. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13457

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