New insights in oocyte dynamics shed light on the complexities associated with fish reproductive strategies
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Information on temporal variations in stock reproductive potential (SRP) is essential in fisheries management. Despite this relevance, fundamental understanding of egg production variability remains largely unclear due to difficulties in tracking the underlying complex fluctuations in early oocyte recruitment that determines fecundity. We applied advanced oocyte packing density theory to get in-depth, quantitative insights across oocyte stages and seasons, selecting the commercially valuable European hake (Merluccius merluccius) as a case study. Our work evidenced sophisticated seasonal oocyte recruitment dynamics and patterns, mostly driven by a low-cost predefinition of fecundity as a function of fish body size, likely influenced also by environmental cues. Fecundity seems to be defined at a much earlier stage of oocyte development than previously thought, implying a quasi-determinate – rather than indeterminate – fecundity type in hake. These results imply a major change in the conceptual approach to reproductive strategies in teleosts. These findings not only question the current binary classification of fecundity as either determinate or indeterminate, but also suggest that current practices regarding potential fecundity estimation in fishes should be complemented with studies on primary oocyte dynamics. Accordingly, the methodology and approach adopted in this study may be profitably applied for unravelling some of the complexities associated with oocyte recruitment and thereby SRP variability.