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Vertical distributions of Japanese sardine (Sardinops melanostictus) eggs: comparison of observations and a wind-forced Lagrangian mixing model

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To understand how Japanese sardine eggs vertically disperse in water, we acquired a series of depth-resolved samples of eggs while tracking a drogued buoy to follow the water mass in which the eggs were spawned. This survey was conducted in early March of 1991, when the sardine population was abundant and actively spawning in the Pacific off Kyushu. Buoyancy of the eggs was estimated by measuring the specific gravity, and was 1–4 × 10−3 less than that of the water in which they were spawned, giving a rising speed of 1–2 mm s−1. In an attempt to diagnose the dynamics underlying the observed vertical profiles of the eggs, a one-dimensional egg distribution model incorporating the egg rising speed and wind- and depth-dependent vertical diffusivity was formulated. Observed eggs were mainly in the surface mixed layer, and their vertical distribution changed with wind-induced surface mixing: during strong winds, the eggs were distributed relatively evenly over the upper 60–75 m, whereas during weak winds and shallow pycnocline, the eggs formed a subsurface peak around 25 m depth. The model accurately reproduced these variations in the vertical distributions of eggs, suggesting that the gradients of egg concentration are sensitive to the strength of wind and the structure of underlying hydrography. Further tests with the model showed the importance of positive buoyancy: neutrally buoyant eggs formed subsurface maxima below the food-rich euphotic zone. The balance of vertical mixing and floating, which allows the eggs to remain in the euphotic zone but away from the near-surface waters, may be an adaptation to minimize surface-enhanced predation, while allowing the eggs to hatch in the food-rich euphotic zone.
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Keywords: Japanese sardine; Kuroshio; buoyancy; egg; mixing; vertical distribution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0218, USA

Publication date: 2008-03-01

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