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Seasonal patterns of winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus abundance and reproductive condition on the New York Bight continental shelf

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To resolve varied and sometimes conflicting accounts of spawning and habitat characteristics for winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus, seasonal patterns in abundance and reproductive condition were investigated in the New York Bight, near the southern edge of their current reproductive range. Fish were collected from trawl surveys on the inner continental shelf from October 2006 to October 2007. Pseudopleuronectes americanus were most abundant during January and April surveys, were rarely collected in August, with intermediate abundances in June and October. Measurements of fish condition [hepato-somatic index (IH), condition factor (K) and the per cent dry mass of muscle tissue (%MD)] and reproductive condition [gonado-somatic index (IG)] were determined to evaluate seasonal changes in energy accumulation and depletion and reproduction. Males and females had similar patterns in body and reproductive condition, although the magnitude of change was greater for females. IH values were highest during spring and early summer, suggesting increased feeding following spawning. K and %MD increased through spring and summer then declined in the autumn and winter concurrent with gonadal development. Gonads began developing in the autumn, and in January, IG values approached spawning levels, with many spent individuals collected in spring. Within these general patterns, however, there was a large degree of variability among individuals, and a few mature non-reproductive (‘skipped spawning’) females were observed. In the period after spawning, increased energy intake, indicated by increased IH, may influence reproductive output since this energy is gradually transferred to the muscle and used for gonadal development in the forthcoming year. The occurrence of ripening individuals on the inner continental shelf in January suggests that these fish either rapidly move into estuaries to spawn by February–March or they remain on the inner shelf to spawn, or some combination of these. Future studies should evaluate these possibilities, as both estuarine and inner shelf habitats are potentially affected by activities such as dredging, sand dredging and wind energy development.
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Keywords: condition factor; energy allocation; gonado-somatic index; habitat; hepato-somatic index; spawning seasonality

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Rutgers University Marine Field Station, 800 c/o 132 Great Bay Blvd., Tuckerton, NJ 08087, U.S.A. 2: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Nacote Creek Research Station, P. O. Box 418, Port Republic, NJ 08241, U.S.A.

Publication date: 01 May 2009

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