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Nursery habitats for ladyfish, Elops saurus, along salinity gradients in two Florida estuaries
McBride, R.S.; MacDonald, T.C.; Matheson Jr., R.E.; Rydene, D.A.; Hood, P.B. (2001). Nursery habitats for ladyfish, Elops saurus, along salinity gradients in two Florida estuaries. Fish. Bull. 99(3): 443-458
In: Fishery Bulletin. US Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0090-0656, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Abundance; Diversity; Dynamics; Fish; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • McBride, R.S.
  • MacDonald, T.C.
  • Matheson Jr., R.E.
  • Rydene, D.A.
  • Hood, P.B.

Abstract
    Ladyfish, Elops saurus, are recognized as an estuarine-dependent species, although no published study has described how ladyfish use estuarine habitats. This study found ladyfish to be common throughout Tampa Bay and Indian River Lagoon, Florida. In both estuaries, metamorphosing larvae were collected during several months of the year, but they were most abundant in spring. Length-frequency analyses suggested that age-0 ladyfish grew from 20-30 mm to 200-300 min standard length during their first year and that at least three age classes were present throughout the year. Age-0 ladyfish followed an ontogenetic migration with regard to salinity, They entered estuaries as metamorphosing larvae and became concentrated in waters of lower than median salinity for both estuaries (23-25 ppt). In Tampa Bay, which had a greater range of salinity than the Indian River Lagoon, age-0 ladyfish were found principally in mesohaline and oligohaline areas; in the Indian River Lagoon, age-0 ladyfish were found in mesohaline and polyhaline waters. In autumn, age-0 ladyfish moved back to higher salinities, into lower parts of the estuaries, and even out to beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. These field observations are consistent with the hypothesis that ladyfish depend on estuaries, specifically positive estuaries, i.e. where freshwater input exceeds evaporative processes. However, published studies also demonstrate that larval ladyfish can metamorphose and juveniles can survive in hypersaline waters; therefore negative estuaries may also serve as suitable nursery habitat. It is not clear how salinity affects ladyfish growth and mortality, and further research should clarify how different types of estuaries (i.e. positive versus negative) contribute to maintaining populations of this fishery species.

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