Morphometry and composition of aragonite and vaterite otoliths of deformed laboratory reared juvenile herring from two populations
Vaterite otoliths were sampled from two reared populations (Celtic and Clyde Seas) of juvenile herring Clupea harengus. The crystallography, elemental composition and morphometry were analysed and compared with those of normal aragonite otoliths. The incidence of vaterite otoliths in the juveniles sampled (n = 601) ranged from 7·8% in the Clyde population to 13·9% in the Celtic Sea population, and was 5·5% in the small sample (n = 36) of wild adults examined. In all but one case fish had only one vaterite otolith; the corresponding otolith of the pair was completely aragonite. Although the majority of the juveniles sampled showed craniofacial deformities, there was no link between the skull or jaw malformation and the incidence of vaterite otoliths. All vaterite otoliths had an aragonite inner area, and vaterite deposition began sometime after the age of 90 days. The vaterite otoliths were larger and lighter than their corresponding aragonite partners, and were less dense as a consequence of the vaterite crystal structure. The vaterite areas of the otoliths were depleted in Sr, Na and K. Concentrations of Mn were higher in the vaterite areas. The transition between the aragonite inner areas and the vaterite areas was sharply delineated. Within a small spatial scale (20 m3) in the vaterite areas, however, there was co‐precipitation of both vaterite and aragonite. The composition of the aragonite cores in the vaterite otoliths was the same as in the cores of the normal aragonite otoliths indicating that the composition of the aragonite cores did not seed the shift to vaterite. Vaterite is less dense than aragonite, yet the concentrations of Ca analysed with wavelength‐dispersive spectrometry (WDS) were the same between the two polymorphs, indicating that Ca concentrations measured with WDS are not a good indicator of hypermineralized zones with high mineral density. The asymmetry in density and size of the otoliths may cause disruptions of hearing and pressure sensitivity for individual fish with one vaterite otolith, however, the presence of vaterite otoliths did not seem to affect the growth of these laboratory reared juvenile herring.
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