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An evaluation of the otolith characteristics of Conger conger during metamorphosis

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A sample of 20 metamorphosing conger eel Conger conger leptocephali were collected from the Minho River, Portugal, in February 1999 and their sagittal otoliths were analysed by scanning electron microscopy. Four different etching agents were applied along both sagittal and frontal sections during otolith preparation to examine the microstructural growth in this species. Otolith growth increments were visible throughout the increment countable zone using all four treatments, but a permanent peripheral diffuse zone, where the daily increments were unclear, appeared on all otoliths, preventing accurate age estimation. To understand more about the nature of the diffuse zone, otoliths of 10 other metamorphosing leptocephali reared in aquaria were marked by immersion in tetracycline hydrochloride. The distance between the fluorescent marks and otolith edge, measured over a fixed period of time, was used to estimate the otolith growth rate. The application of this technique led to an anomalously high estimated otolith growth rate, probably as a result of the capture, marking and handling stress.

Keywords: accessory growth centres; conger eel; leptocephalus; otolith; peripheral diffuse otolith zone

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental, Rua dos Bragas 289, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal,

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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