Factors determining variations in otolith microincrement width of demersal juvenile Baltic cod Gadus morhua
Pelagic and demersal juvenile Baltic cod Gadus morhua L. were collected on the slope and the top of Rønne bank in the Baltic Sea during 2 cruises in November and December 1998. The objective of this study was to evaluate distinct changes in otolith increment width observed in demersal juveniles by comparison with laboratory-reared individuals, and to investigate the factors determining variation in these increments. The different increment-width patterns were identified with a method based on the widths of consecutive increments. Otolith increment widths of juvenile cod were found to be highly variable within and between individuals, in both the experimental and the field samples. The first change in increment pattern observed in the field samples was related to settling. The formation periodicity of increments within the different pattern intervals was confirmed with a growth model based on otolith growth rates of juvenile cod reared in the laboratory under different conditions. In this model, otolith growth rate was expressed as a function of rearing temperature and fish dry weight. Otolith growth of the field samples was calculated using ambient temperatures obtained from a 3D-circulation model. The best fit to observed otolith growth rates was obtained under the assumption that fish on the slope performed daily vertical migrations between the warm surface layer and the cold bottom layer. The data suggested that fish stayed in the surface layer during the first increment-pattern interval, performed vertical migrations during the second interval, and stayed in association with the seafloor in the subsequent interval, corresponding to the time after the breakdown of the thermocline.
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