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Ontogenetic variation in habitat associations for four flatfish species in the Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank region

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Multivariate ordination techniques were used to examine how size classes of four flatfish species, American plaice Hippoglossoides platessoides, winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus, yellowtail flounder Limanda ferruginea and fourspot flounder Paralichthys oblongus, are related to bottom depth, bottom temperature, substratum grain size and temporal factors using a 35 year time series from autumn and spring in the Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank region. Depth had the most explanatory value during both seasons in most cases, with fish size generally increasing with depth. One exception was yellowtail flounder in the spring for which a temporal factor explained the most variance, reflecting an increase in size over the time series due to changes in fishing pressure. Temperature was secondarily important for yellowtail flounder in the autumn and for fourspot flounder in both seasons. Substratum type was secondarily important for winter and yellowtail flounders in the spring with smaller fish associated with larger substratum types. Seasonal associations with depth, temperature and substratum are related to seasonal spawning migrations, thermal preferences and other ecological factors.

Keywords: environmental gradient; fisheries; life history; north-west Atlantic; spatial distribution

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Food Web Dynamics Program, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02540, U.S.A.

Publication date: June 1, 2007


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