Birth-date selection in early life stages of plaice Pleuronectes platessa in the eastern Irish Sea (British Isles)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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For species with extended spawning seasons, short periods of beneficial conditions often lead to disproportionate survival of sub-sets of the offspring. This has been demonstrated for freshwater fish and for marine pelagic species, but has been less frequently tested for other teleost groups. Using offshore plankton surveys, we constructed egg production curves for plaice Pleuronectes platessa L. in the eastern Irish Sea. Data from 5 yr showed that spawning began sometime before January and was completed by the end of April. Over these years the timing of peak spawning varied between mid-February and mid-March. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, we also sampled post-settlement plaice from inshore nursery grounds. Otolith micro-increment analyses and temperature-dependent egg development rates were used to back-calculate the birth dates of the settled fish. By June, immigration to the nursery grounds was largely completed and the shape of the reconstructed birth-date distributions corresponded closely to the relevant egg production curves. In contrast to many other studies, there was little evidence for significantly disproportionate survival of specific portions of the egg production curve between spawning and the recently post-settled stages. Such a survival pattern could be generated by a gradual switch from starvation to predation as the principal cause of larval mortality as the spawning season progressed.