Age validation and growth of three commercially important hemiramphids in south-eastern Australia
The method of using sectioned otoliths to estimate age in three species of garfishes (family Hemiramphidae) was validated by: (1) staining fishes with the vital stain alizarin complexone (ALC) and periodically examining their otolith growth, and (2) marginal increment analyses. Staining fishes with ALC indicated that opaque zones were formed during winter and spring, but did not become visible on the otolith edge until late spring and summer. Hyporhamphus australis were found to be similar to the hemiramphids of the Atlantic in having fast growth rates and a maximum observed age of 4+ years old. Hyporhamphus regularis ardelio and Arrhamphus sclerolepis krefftii were found to be more similar to the southern sea garfish, Hyporhamphus melanochir, in being moderately long-lived, with maximum observed ages of 7+ years old for both species. Females grew faster and attained greater fork lengths than males for each species. Sectioned otoliths showed large variation in the appearance of opaque zones between the three species studied, with those from the wide-ranging, oceanic H. australis appearing inconsistent and diffuse when compared to the estuarine H. r. ardelio and A. s. krefftii. This variation was also apparent from fishes kept in aquaria, suggesting that the appearance of opaque zones in otoliths of these species is largely influenced by physiology, rather than by environmental conditions.
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