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Micro- and macroscopic characteristics to stage gonadal maturation of female Baltic cod

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A set of histological characteristics to judge ovarian development was established and used to elaborate morphological criteria of 10 maturity stages of Baltic cod Gadus morhua sampled throughout the annual cycle to represent different macroscopic maturity stages. The applied characteristics confirmed most stages of the macroscopic scale, but the separation of late immature and resting mature females remained imprecise. Atretic vitellogenic oocytes or encapsulated residual eggs identified the resting condition morphologically, but not all ovaries with visible signs of previous spawning showed such features. One ovarian stage that was previously classified as ‘ripening’ was changed to ‘spawning’, owing to the prevalence of hydrated eggs and empty follicles. Ovaries with malfunctions were defined by a separate stage. Macroscopic criteria were revised by comparing the gross anatomy of ovaries with their histology. Female length and gonado-somatic index supported stage definitions, but substantial variation in Fulton's condition factor and the hepato-somatic index rendered these of little use for this purpose. The time of sampling influenced staging accuracy. A female spawner probability function based on the proportion of ripening and ripe specimens in early spring seems to be the most appropriate method to estimate spawner biomass and reproductive potential.
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Keywords: Gadus morhua; maturity stages; morphology; oogenesis; ovarian development; reproduction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Marine Ecology and Aquaculture, Institute for Fisheries Research, Kavalergården 6, DK-2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark and 2: Department of Zoomorphology, Institute of Zoology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK- 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

Publication date: 2003-02-01

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