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Assessment of habitat quality for juvenile California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) in a seasonally arid estuary
López-Rasgado, F.J.; Herzka, S.Z. (2009). Assessment of habitat quality for juvenile California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) in a seasonally arid estuary. Fish. Bull. 107(3): 343-358
In: Fishery Bulletin. National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA: Seattle. ISSN 0090-0656, more
Peer reviewed article

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Keywords
    Halibut; Juveniles; Paralichthys californicus (Ayres, 1859) [WoRMS]; ISE, Mexico, Baja California, Punta Banda Estuary [gazetteer]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • López-Rasgado, F.J.
  • Herzka, S.Z.

Abstract
    We evaluated habitat quality for juvenile California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) in a Pacific Coast estuary lacking in strong salinity gradients by examining density, recent otolith growth rates, and gut fullness levels of wild-caught and caged juveniles for one year. Juveniles <200 mm standard length were caught consistently in the inner, central, and outer sections of the estuary. The density of juveniles was two times higher in the inner estuary during most of the year, consistent with active habitat selection by part of the population. A generalized linear model indicated temperature, sampling time, and the interaction between salinity and temperature were significantly related to density. However, the model explained only 21% of the variance. Gut fullness levels of wild-caught juveniles were highest during the summer, but recent otolith growth rates were not related to temperature. The proportion of individuals feeding successfully indicated that seasonal differences in food availability are more important than spatial variation in prey abundance in driving feeding success. Feeding success of caged fishes was limited, precluding the use of growth rates as indicators of local habitat quality. However, marginal increment widths were reliable indicators of somatic growth at low growth rates over two-week periods. The relatively high growth rates and abundance of small wild-caught juveniles found throughout the estuary indicates that the entire estuary system has the potential for serving as nursery habitat.

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