Comparison of otolith growth and morphology with somatic growth and age in young-of-the-year bluefin tuna
Otolith morphological characteristics were studied using image analysis techniques and the relationships between otolith growth and somatic growth and age, as estimated from counting daily otolith increments, were examined in young-of-the-year (YOY) bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus ranging in fork length (LF) from 8·5 to 55·5 cm. Whole otolith length, width, area and perimeter, and three shape indexes, circularity, E value and rectangularity, were extracted for each pair of sagittae. Since no statistical significant differences between left and right otolith morphometrics were found, only one otolith from each fish was used for correlations. Statistically significant relationships were observed between otoliths measurements and fish somatic growth when a linear regression was applied after logarithmic transformation of all variables tested. Among the variables, otolith length was the one that showed the highest correlation with LF, followed by otolith area and perimeter, whereas otolith rectangularity exhibited the lowest correlation. Statistically significant relationships were also observed between the otolith variables tested and the age of the fish, which ranged from 20 to 129 days. The ages estimated using otolith mass were very close to those assessed using daily increment counts (bias ranged from 1 to 24 days). Therefore, otolith mass could represent a valuable criterion for age estimation in YOY bluefin tuna that is objective, economic and easy to perform compared to daily increment counting method.